Brainiac 5: When Silence Was Sound

Re-formed Cornwall psych-punks anthologised.

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Back in the late 70s, Cornish outfit Brainiac 5 attempted to reconcile the superficially disparate sonic universes of punk and psychedelia. They also dropped hefty measures of reggae and space rock into the broth, becoming John Peel faves in the process. A little too ahead of their time for their own good, they released one EP, one 7-inch and recorded an album with Hawkwind’s Martin Griffin, before promptly splitting in 1980.

Listening to When Silence Was Sound, which bundles their posthumously-released sole album, World Inside together with their single, Mushy Doubt EP and live cuts recorded back in 1980, it’s possible to discern the early stirrings of what would become the 80s psych revival, manifesting itself via The Soft Boys and their ilk in the UK, and the loose group of acts known as the Paisley Underground (Rain Parade, Green On Red, The Dream Academy, The Bangles) in the US.

It’s unclear how much of Brainiac 5’s innovation was intentional. Primal Screaming’s motorik rhythm for example recalls the constant forward motion of seminal German groups such as Neu! – but could this simply have been a happy accident?

In any case, notwithstanding the occasional whiff of pub rock, the group’s music has a freshness and verve that makes their recent reformation seem entirely justified.