Album Review: Asylums – ‘Killer Brain Waves’

Killer Brain Waves

As phallic symbols go, the time has come to ditch the longest pleasure pier in the world and hurtle headlong into the penis extensions that the Asylums wield.

For these guitar-toting boys from Southend are going to take the music world by storm and they are going to do it solely on their own terms – you can take your pleasure pier and shove it where the sun don’t shine. If there’s pleasure to be had, these boys are giving it. The sex may be second-class (‘Second Class Sex’), but ears are going to be bludgeoned into submission and you will soon be cumming (ahem!) to worship at the feet of all things Asylums.

Killer Brain Waves’ is released on their own Cool Things Records label, and we pray that the label name is ironic and relatively self-deprecating. It has to be; these boys know where it’s at.

Southend previously spawned The Horrors; a band dripping in cool and art school semantics. A band at their inception more inclined to look in the mirror before bothering to tune their instruments. Asylums are the polar opposite: the complete antithesis if you will.

They appear to come barrelling towards us straight out of the local comp, that’s if they ever bothered to show up.  If the school hasn’t been raised to the ground yet, the rumbling bass-lines and drums pummelled to within an inch of their life on this debut album should knock the final Jenga-like brick out of place. There she blows!

Spitting, snarling and raging against small town alienation is how Asylums hit us square between the eyes. “There’s a whole world outside your own,” repeats singer Luke Branch on ‘Joy In a Small Wave’ early on, the song is central to the thematic imagery running throughout this twelve-song blast of punk/pop nuggets.

Asylums want an escape and they want it NOW. No longer happy as the “high street closes down” and desperate for a life outside of where you “spend more than you got paid”. There’s a life unseen outside of the metaphorical four-walls of your shitty, small-minded town.

The album is not all anger, spittle and alienation though. ‘Killer Brain Waves’ is also chock-full of tongue-in-cheek moments – Asylums are certainly not a band who take themselves too seriously. The song titles alone; ‘Wet Dream Fanzine’, ‘Monosyllabic Saliva’, tell us as much. But, it’s when the band get angry and rail against modern-day society and its negatives that they really hit full-stride.

The Death Of Television’ speaks for itself and on ‘Necessary Appliances’ they hammer the nail into the coffin of modernity. “Appliances were meant to break,” Branch tells us in the latter. Nobody knows any better; well and truly ensconced in the throwaway culture that engulfs us. Society running around fuelled on Starfucks and Costa Fortune as the “intravenous coffee machine feeds us caffeine”.

Yes, ‘Killer Brain Waves,’ can be seen as a bunch of two/three minute punk/pop songs that are pretty easy listening. Delve further though, behind the killer hooks and driving percussion, and there’s certainly more to be harvested than first listen intimates. Asylums are a band for lovers of all things nineties, but can be pigeonholed with Yak if a contemporary mirror is required.

Be sure of one thing: ‘Killer Brain Waves’ will be lingering come the end of the year when all those godforsaken ‘best of’ polls hit the printing presses.

(Matthew Lawrence)

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