Following a string of EPs and split releases, Crazy & The Brains have issued their first proper full-length, Let Me Go. C&tB's previous releases were rooted in garage rock and spiced with a xylophone. These releases were energetic, fun and quirky, but it was unclear if the arrangement could lead to a fulfilling full-length. Perhaps against the odds, Let Me Go maintains the the frantic energy of the band's earlier releases, but expands into a fulfilling, textured experience.
As before, the band is based in equal parts San Francisco hyped up garage rock and '50s frat rock. The combination, which even steps up the energy from the influences, leads to a release that is equal parts Ramones and Chubby Checker, hyped up on speed. The band tear from tune to tune at a frantic pace, kicking out bouncy riffs. Meanwhile the vocals, which suggest the happy-braindeadeness of Ramones' "Pinhead," permeates throughout each tune. On "Saturday Night Live" the band declare their desire to get on the show, no matter how they might have to demean themselves to make that happen. "Biggest in the World" fits perfectly within early rock and perfectly against modern punk, with the band declaring just how much they want to be famous.
But while the zaniness never lets up, the band do suggest some darker sides. "Lindsay Lohan" is a love letter directed at the actress despite her recent social, health and drug-related problems. "Box Room" opens with the band in a mental asylum and the verbal smack "I'm in my little box room / don't look at me!"
Two things really hold the album together. First, although pretty much each track is a rock n' roll whipper, each is crafted in the classic pop sense and has such tight construction and snappy riffs that the songs are distinct despite their energetic tempos. Second, the general weirdness in the band keep it interesting. Instead of simply saying they are "weird" the band drops hints here and there, never letting us know if they are serious when they dedicate an entire song to "snacks" or not. On "Beach Bug" the band detail a kidnapping and doing drugs and then call out "I'm a beach bug, baby!" with no explanation for the connection.
Probably the most unique thing about the band is their fifth instrument–the xylophone. Each track is peppered with the clinking, sparkly instrument. While the xylophone, which is rare in rock music, would threaten to derail the band by appearing on every track, it actually elevates them above most of their contemporaries. Because the xylophone is so intertwined with the rest of the music, and is as varied and clever as the guitar riffs, it not only fits in as well as any other rock instrument, it gives the band a unique sound not heard in rock or punk before. Not an easy feat.
The cassette version comes with some tasty bonus tracks. Sort of a "deluxe edition" companion, demo cuts, live cuts, and studio outtakes fill up the bonus side. Interestingly, the bonus tracks actually have a more varied sound than their studio counterparts, showing either that the band has evolved or will make an evolution on their next releases.
Let Me Go is wild, weird, and wacky–everything a good punk band should be. One of the most exciting releases of the year from one of the most exciting newer bands around.