Play with fire and your pop might start to snap and crackle. The Inland Empire trio Brainstory — comprised of brothers Kevin and Tony Martin with drummer Eric Hagstrom — emerged with a new self-titled mini-album this month that paints the psych-pop canvas with splashes of Hendrix, Os Mutantes, Gilberto Gil, Zappa and Sun Ra. Songs like “Water,” “Dreams” and “Evil Cowboy” are rife with rich, harmony-driven refrains and powerful melodic movement, but their standout moments are actually those of spontaneous simplicity. It’s the notes they don’t play, or maybe the silences between lines, that make this record really move. In other words, even when you are staring into the face of brilliance, you still need to blink.
The unexpected anthem that is “Moth Love” would rightly serve as the B-side to the A-side single “Fruitless Trees.” Brainstory’s preternatural strength as a live act is faithfully captured here, a cautionary tale of misplaced affections that registers on the “hot” end of the jazz thermometer, letting a little blood with a psych-pop punch. Guitars chirp conversationally over a thick rhythmic backbone as singer-guitarist Kevin Martin chides an old flame for inviting him in, only to hang him out to dry. The band squanders no further words over lost love and dives into a wild instrumental break, crying wah-wah and then trading statements as the triumphant bass-drums-guitar outfit that they are. If we were still nursing the wound of rejection by the deceitful ex-lover, it’s been cauterized with the sheer heat of this track. We thank you, Brainstory, and may we have another?
||| Stream: The album in its entirety
||| Live: Brainstory play the Music Tastes Good festival in Long Beach, Sept. 30-Oct. 1.