With Whatever Brains, Rich Ivey found a posse of simpatico players who were eager to shake and tangle genre tropes and craft an idiosyncratic sound. By the time the band played its last show in May, the group had evolved from a snotty punk act into a consistently confounding band with more keyboards than guitars, more caterwauling than choruses. Now dead, Whatever Brains may have only been a prelude.
Since the last Brains show, Ivey debuted the synth-driven duo Bodykit at Hopscotch and released the cassette debut of ISS. A collaboration between Ivey and erstwhile Brain F≠ bassist Eddie Schneider, ISS feels like a logical extension of Whatever Brains' irreverent and caustic output. Built on what Schnieder has called "punk drum breaks," ISS songs dissect punk's past to construct new rhythms. Layered guitars, recorded directly into samplers and computers (or cellphones), fill out the sound and produce a lo-fi hiss. The sound evokes Whatever Brains' early scuzz, while the looped rhythms and bold hooks recall the band's latter days.
But the most obvious connection to Whatever Brains' legacy is Ivey's idiosyncratic, nasal delivery, an ideal tool for sarcastic irreverence and snide indignation. ISS employs it as well as it ever has been used. "(Dis)Charge It to the Game" surges with a D-beat while Ivey sneers punk-parody declarations: "I chose a haircut that shows people that I don't respect them" or "I want a jacket with some spikes/Because that's what I think looks nice." On "Freemasons Run The Country," Ivey becomes a hyperbolic conspiracy theorist who sings "Reptilians run the nation/I hate conglomerates" and whispers of "chemtrails."
As a palliative to grieving Whatever Brains fans, ISS offers plenty. Ivey's sneering eloquence is in fine form, and Schneider's production matches the aggressive source material with compelling melodies. More important? As one of the year's best debuts, this is a strong foundation for a promising new project.
Label: The Loki Label