The Phenoms - Home Brain Surgery Kit (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Phenoms

Home Brain Surgery Kit (2005)


The Phenoms, who have been tearing around the Chicago scene since 2001, play simplistic bar-friendly punk ripped straight out of the punk rock textbook. They play fast as the Dead Kennedys, sloppier than classic Damned and attempt the attitude of the Sex Pistols. Problem is, lots of bands do this.

You could walk into a dive punk rock bar in any city (I'm thinking of The Mutiny when it comes to Chicago) and see a band like this. I'm sure most of you have experienced this with some random punk band -- you didn't come to see the band, but you enjoy it at the time, perhaps with the help of a few watch the young punks in the crowd crack skulls, and you tap your foot and perhaps throw a fist. But when the set is over, you don't even consider buying a CD because you know it was an ‘in-the-moment' kinda thing, or that they're a band that you need to see and not just hear. I lived in Chicago my life before moving to Indiana last year, and I don't recall the Phenoms. There's a good chance I saw them at some point, but maybe they just did not make a lasting impression.

I'm sure they are fun as hell to see live because they seem like a rowdy bunch. But here on Home Brain Surgery Kit, it's very pedestrian sounding. I love the classic punk rock sound, but it's been 30 years since the Ramones' first album was released and the Damned dropped the first UK punk single "New Rose," so as a band still playing that angle verbatim, you need some extra hook, or you need to do it really well.

These guys don't have much to hook you besides their energy, evident on the blistering "Lies, Lies, Lies" (similar to "Neat Neat Neat" in more than name alone). And I wouldn't say they do it really well either, as the music's dynamics and style remain pretty stagnant throughout the record and the vocals don't have the bubblegum of a Joey Ramone or the captivating attitude of a Johnny Rotten. The lyrics are run-of-the-mill punk too, and most of the time, like on "The Fringe Benefits of Being on the Fringes of a Fringe Society" you'll be thankful you can't understand the words.

"Please, Please, Please Don't" is decent, a revved-up old time rock'n'roll tune about the crummy pay and situations local bands tend to endure. The slightly swinging "Part of Deal" has one of the few memorable melodies, along with some nice "yeah yeah"s to finish it off. The one other song that sticks out is the ZZ Top cover "Heard It on the X."

Their website makes it seem as though the Phenoms are hanging it up in the near future, or they may have already. While I would never say ‘good riddance' to a hard-working band and I wish the best of luck to the Phenom guys, the truth is that there are plenty more where that came from, and plenty worse than this.