Exposé Online banner

Brainiac 5 — When Silence Was Sound
(Reckless, 1980/2014, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2015-11-11

When Silence Was Sound Cover art

Listening to these recordings, which date from the late 70s, is kind of a strange experience now. That was a time when stripped-down punk rock was in the ascendant and complex progressive rock was on the wane. At least that was the general flow – there were numerous bands bucking the trends, as well as others who just seemed to exist apart from everything else going on. As an example, take Hawkwind. While their roots clearly lay in psychedelic and progressive rock, they adapted to the times without losing their identity – the 1978 Hawklords album presents a hybrid between classic space rock and raw punk energy. At the same point in time, Brainiac 5 was producing similar music: at times straightforward enough to fit in with punk rock, but with spaced-out psychedelic touches that pure punks likely spat at. It’s no surprise the band didn’t find wider success in that climate. The Soft Boys are somewhat comparable with their version of psychedelic rock, but they also labored in relative obscurity at the time. In the 80s and 90s, there was a resurgence of interest in psychedelic music, and some Brainiac 5 material saw reissue on Reckless and other labels. When Silence Was Sound pulls together pretty much everything the band recorded in the 1977-1980 period, most of which never appeared at the time. There’s 1978’s Mushy Doubt EP and the “Working” / “Feel” single from 1979. The “Time” / “Monkeys and Degenerates” single from 1986 featured songs recorded in 1978 and 1979; an album was recorded in 1979, but didn’t get released until 1988 as World Inside. All of those are here, barring some duplicates eliminated – we get the single version of “Working” instead of the album version, for example. For added value, two tracks recorded live in 1980 are tacked on the end. While the recording quality of some of the songs is rather rough, the music is pretty solid, and there are enough surprises and gems to make it worth checking out. It’s kind of cool to hear a freaked-out wah-wah guitar solo in a thrashy punk tune (“New Dark Ages”), and the massive harmony vocals on “Time” are a bit like The Moody Blues. I love discovering corners of history that I’d never been aware of, and with Brainiac 5 now reactivated, it’s great to see why they matter.


Filed under: Archives, 2014 releases, 1980 recordings

Related artist(s): The Brainiac 5

More info
http://brainiac5.bandcamp.com/album/when-silence-was-sound

Latest news

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more

2020-01-15
Carlos Alvarado RIP – Carlos Alvarado, pioneering composer, multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of progressive rock and electronic experimental music in Mexico, passed away January 14th, 2020 at age 68 after a two year battle with cancer.  » Read more

2020-01-12
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more

2020-01-12
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more

2020-01-10
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Elka Atanasova - Winds of the Rhodopes – Back in the early 90s, when the Bulgarian Women's Choir was making the rounds, a diminutive but fire-breathing 19-year-old violinist from the same country released this promising debut work. How...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues