Sputnik Music: I feel like this is one of those albums that I have been unwittingly searching for for years. Before I even knew who Brainiac were, I always imagined a silly noise rock album with choppy guitar, heavy feedback, and electronic bloops being an ideal concept. It would be the kind of album where you know that everyone involved is having lighthearted fun with little to no restraint on their ideas. It would be a powerful tour de force of variety in vocal styles and techniques and would take many risky, yet successful moves. However, it would also be catchy, animated and not too lengthy. It seemed like the kind of album that could only exist in theory, as if the album would have too much going on to comfortably fit into a short amount of time. At least it seemed that way until I heard Bonsai Superstar.
In just under 34 minutes, Bonsai Superstar, not only displays everything that is mentioned above, but far more. The album quietly sneaks in with a fairly tame bass line on “Hot Metal Doberman’s,” but once the distorted vocals of the verses kick in, followed by an off-kilter chorus, the wild ride begins. There are a few mellow songs here and there, but more than half of them contain such heavy feedback that it keeps that album’s momentum up without having to resort to forcibly picking it up the pace. Also, the mellower songs are placed perfectly in between the more frantic ones, causing the constant change in pace to make the album seem even more hectic. John Schmersal’s guitar playing on nearly every track is conspicuously choppy, the electronic elements typically burst out of feedback, and Juan Monasterio’s bass lines are stark. The bass is so prominent that it even leads a couple of the songs such as “Flypaper.”
Speaking of “Flypaper,” it is easily one of the most unique songs on the album. It is like a caricature of an already silly Pixies song complete with Tim Taylor’s goofy high pitched mumbles. Throughout the album, Taylor shifts between shouting, screaming, whispering, and the aforementioned goofy high pitched mumbles -sometimes within the same song. A lot of the vocals on the album are slurred, and while this may seem like a flaw to some, it could be more positively seen as the vocals mimicking the feedback, which is oddly thrilling and creates a tone of extreme anxiety. The album transfers its high energy to the listener, so that it may be uncomfortable to sit still during it. In this way, Bonsai Superstar is a rather danceable album, if not at least a headbanger.
I feel like I am all over the place just talking about this album as if I have been granted temporary ADHD. Bonsai Superstar is so ridiculously fun and catchy that the listener should not even want to sit down while listening to it, but rather be on the go for its duration. Maybe it is annoying, maybe it is unsettling, maybe it is disorganized, but wow does it convey these elements in the most enjoyable way possible. It’s noise rock, right” Is it not noise rock’s goal to be an exciting mess” Even if it is not, this exciting mess surely proves itself to be worthy of many listens.
Album highlights: “Radio Apeshot”, “Flypaper”, “Sexual Frustration”, “You Wrecked My Hair”