Whatever Brains play Berkeley Cafe Saturday, April 24, with Invisible Hand, Gross Ghost and The Alphabet. The 10 p.m. show costs $5. The band plays Berkeley Cafe again Tuesday, May 4, with Future Islands, Lonnie Walker and Lower Dens.
One time at a Whatever Brains show, singer Rich Ivey spit a gooey green loogey on my jacket. He apologized. It was probably a matter of poor aim and collateral damage, but I don’t really care. As an encapsulation of what Whatever Brains are, it was the perfect sceneexcept, well, for the snot on my clothes.
Whatever Brains is, allegedly, a punk band gobbing guitar fuzz on songs paced like they were penned by a kid with ADHD and no meds. Ivey slurs and yells as much as he sings, and the recordings favor low fidelity and high brevity. Nesting, the Brains’ third vinyl single, is perhaps their noisiest and probably their best. With the guitars more up front than they’ve been since the Soft Dick City cassette, the Brains are tossing sketchy psychedelics into the cheap-beer punk ‘n’ roll now, letting songs expand like sponges.
The B-side stretches nearly to the four-minute mark. For 100 seconds, it pretends it won’t use its skeletal guitar meandering and Ivey’s slurry whisper as a springboard into a gigantic rager. It’s like the Brains pulled a game-changing pump fake, opening the space for a backboard-shattering dunk. By the time the song ends, it feels like the band has been jamming only a chorus for almost two minutes.
And that’s really the crux of what makes Whatever Brains special: No matter how noisy or, ahem, snotty they get, there’s always an irresistible pop chorus that opens like a pair of armsa bromantic hug, if you will. It’s sincere, even if it’s smirking. But we don’t care anyway. We’re having too much fun.