Fans of Crazy & the Brains have been waiting three years for new Brain matter. The five-song EP, “Out in the Weedz,” produced by The Bouncing Souls’ Pete Steinkopf, is so worth the wait.
Crazy & the Brains is a wonderfully odd punk- and jazz-rooted ensemble from Jersey City who would be straight-up punk if not for the amazing chops of the most unlikely of punk rockers, xylophonist Jeffrey Rubin. His frantic trickle ‘n’ tink is one of the things I love most about Crazy & the Brains, especially when he makes his mallets explode, tossing them to the floor, where they lay beheaded, shredded and shattered beneath his rig.
I also love the Johnny Thunders-possessed soul of frontman Chris Urban, who adds to that persona greatly with “Candy Yamz,” the opening track of the band’s new and long-awaited EP, Out in the Weedz, produced by seminal Jersey band supporter Pete Steinkopf of the Bouncing Souls at his Little Eden Studios in Asbury Park. Interplay between the Thunders-like attitude of Urban, the thunderous rhythms of bassist Brett Maverick, guitarist Ernest Young and drummer Jonathan Lango, and the lightning hands of Rubin is at its best on this song about a punk who aims to come between his girl and her father.
A great xylophone intro next opens “Vapor Wave,” an otherwise gnarly ‘n’ snarly surf-punk track. Yet Rubin’s charming chime more than holds it own throughout.
Like Thunders, Crazy & the Brains have a love of ‘60s pop, particularly girl-group rock, and that comes through on the title track, which sounds like The Shirelles through a funkel or punk funnel. Rubin’s playing adds to both sides of the musical equation.
To the quirky “You Can Call Me Quincy,” Maverick delivers an excellent Motown-like bass line that holds together the surrounding chaos — particular a wild, jungle cat-like ending. The closing “Nasty” lives up its title with a finish that continues the punk tradition of The Sex Pistols, The Dead Boys and The Dictators. The eclectic tune also seems inspired in parts by Iggy Pop, ‘80s Brit rockers such as Echo & the Bunnymen, and the Rude Boy sounds that inspired hardcore and ska punk.
Throughout Out in the Weedz, Urban and Rubin deliver great performances, but the explosiveness that is Young, Maverick and Lango cannot be contained in the studio and has to be experienced live to get the full effect. I highly recommend you do that because Crazy & the Brains is one of the best live bands in New Jersey, especially because of how Young puts on a show — not just with his Angus Young-like guitar playing, but the way he flails his instrument and flings his body throughout a set.
You can experience the greatness that is Crazy & the Brains on July 28 when the band and Little Eden stablemates Hot Blood, Little Vicious, Doc Rotten and Chris Brown play the Makin Waves Summer Concert Series at Asbury Park Brewery.
Bob Makin is the reporter for MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And like Makin Waves at facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.