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THE BROWN BOOK – Thirty Nothing (CD, self-released)

Posted: May 20th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

The Brown Book are a noise rock band from near Boston, USA. They’ve been going for nigh-on 5 years and this is their latest release, currently being sold in handmade self-released versions. If anyone wants to put out an “official” release for them, that would be just fine.

An experimental rock-based band, The Brown Book take the standard template of 2 guitars+bass+drums, get a shitload of heaviness on board and then set their sights for the stars. It’s so refreshing to hear a band revelling in huge lumpen chunks of volume who actually have more than one change of gear in their setup -opener “Deer Heads” starts with nothing more than the beauteous feeding back of guitars merging melodies…  until the drums and bass come piling onto the mix with a wickedly fast lurch that finally turns into some kind of a twisted groove. It’s a complex rhythm and structure that also is interesting and pleasurable to listen to – a rare combination when it comes to experimental music.

More combinations and experiments with tempo and rhythm continue with “Family Outing”, which starts out with spare drums and a slow looming chord progression, both of which slowly fill out further and further until around the halfway mark, they shift matters into top gear and  everything starts going absolutely batshit. There’s a pause for  a few seconds, more madness, then another side-shift to a different, bobbing rhythm that would completely do your neck in if you tried to tried to headbang along. I’d love to see audiences get totally blown away but confused by this shit.

It’s not just the ideas that are impressive, it’s the sheer intensity of their application that mark out The Brown Book for me – they know exactly when to play it cool, when to totally go for it, and when to grind to sudden halts to keep you on your toes. They play a really nice mix of so-called “math rock” grooves,  drones, heavyheavy riffs and total shredding insanity. There’s even some lighter textures on the deceptively melodious mid-album track “Jumping The Shark” (winner of the prestigious Best Song Title I’ve Heard In A While award) that offer welcome respite from the exhausting flurry of ideas, rhythms, textures and walloping noise that fill out the rest of the album. That said, it still manages to turn into a surprisingly anthemic stadium-filler halfway through.

If I were to have one criticism of The Brown Book, I’d say that though the recording and mastering here have been done by some established names (Keith Souza (Battles, Lightning Bolt), Alan Douches (Animal Collective, Don Caballero)) their sound could really benefit from a little clarity – easing off a little on the distortion to give a really nastily hard-hitting cleanliness to their guitars, and backing off the reverb/delay that muddies some of the more frantic playing could give The Brown Book one hell of a smack-in-the-mouth sucker punch of a sound.

Overall though, if any of this sounds remotely interesting you should definitely check this band out – a bunch of guys totally into making music that interests and excites them as much as pleasing an audience, and really doing a fine thing making their music available to people without waiting around for someone with some cash to pull their thumb our of their ass and release this rather fine record. Do it.

The Brown Book website

The Brown Book myspace

Dave Stockwell

David can always be relied on to end his e-mails with one of those 'np: blah blah' things in order to remind us of how much more music he listens to every day than anybody else. His interests include rockin ' out in a major style as guitarist in Souvaris, throwing frisbees from tall buildings "just to see what happens" and simply kickin' back with his bitches in a gold-plated jacuzzi.


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