Brainiac 5: Exploding Universe

Cornish psych-punk-proggers’ first new album in 30 years.

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

In the mid-70s, Brainiac 5 grew out of The Half Human Band, hairy post-psychedelic jammers who had been a staple of free festivals (you could have seen them on the bill with Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies).

When punk broke, they relished this new energy, and you could probably have seen them on a bill with Planet Gong and Alternative TV. Now they return with a compellingly bizarre album that nods back to that era but isn’t overtly nostalgic. Haphazard is just that, offering noisy, riffing guitars backing a droll account of trying to get your sexual kicks, with mocking backing vocals, loopy sax and wig‑out guitar solos. The witty Ordinary Man taps back into the peculiarly English view of the everyman as being someone a bit eccentric, reminding of the likes of The Kinks and Small Faces. Elsewhere, their eclectic music ranges from freak‑outs to hints of jazz and bluebeat. ‘There’ll be no politics/We’ll stay forever high,’ they sing on Walls Are Falling Down, looking back on their own 70s naivety. But the song ends as a rallying cry for action now, to ‘March a thousand miles to free our land’. They’re still flying their freak flag high.

Mike Barnes

Mike Barnes is the author of Captain Beefheart - The Biography (Omnibus Press, 2011) and A New Day Yesterday: UK Progressive Rock & the 1970s (2020). He was a regular contributor to Select magazine and his work regularly appears in Prog, Mojo and Wire. He also plays the drums.