Reviews Direct Hit! Brainless God

Direct Hit!

Brainless God

Direct Hit! get filed in the Midwest pop-punk scene and, while they deviate throughout the course of Brainless God, that’s definitely a fair starting point. While there are some harder influences at play, the band’s core is in that school of Dear Landlord and The Dopamines. It’s melodic, catchy, and peppy. There’s some Screeching Weasel in there, but it’s more serious and is generally better served with a coarse grain in the production. In “Bank of Elevators,” smack dab in the record’s center, they even break out an “Oh oh oh” chorus. At times it gets heavier, and there’s even a bit of Andrew W.K. I Get Wet in a couple of songs. Oh, and it’s a concept record about, well, just look at the name. Themes surround an apocalyptic world, a handful of characters, and some religious exploration. The semi-snotty vocal tones make it feel a touch sillier than the lyrics portray, but it definitely feels that Direct Hit! would rather have fun than wax philosophy, well evidenced in “Buried Alive,” a pop-punk singalong about a serial killer and its conclusion that “it’ll be just like a first date, but better.”

Astute SPB readers have no doubt noticed that I’ve got a taste for Midwest pop-punk. Yet, something about Direct Hit! doesn’t grab me the same way others do—and that something is in the vocals and the production. Ringleader Nick Woods (who wrote the whole record) does a solid job of leading the songs, but his voice is a bit more crisp than my personal tastes generally go for and I find it distracts from the rougher elements in the songs, with “White Robes” serving as an example of where things get a bit too squeaky clean. The early part of “I Told You a Lie” is another, though the song later morphs into the heaviest part of the record. These tempo shifts and changeups in vocal delivery serve as a counter to that sheen, bringing a darker and heavier edge, but it feels a bit to clean—dark, but not grim. “We’re Fucked” goes all-out on the heavy side, bringing the bass upfront while (I think) guitarist Devon Kay screams. His voice reminds of The Suicide Machines’ Jay Navarro. The back and forth between the two singers is definitely unique and plays well more often than not, but it never fully overcomes the “happy pop” sound that dominates both opener “On and On” and the cathartic closer “Message to the Angels.” With the record sandwiched in that style, it’s safe to say it’s the sound the band is aiming for. I realize that judging a band’s overall sound on a concept record may be a sticky wicket, but based on what I hear on Brainless God, these are my conclusions.

It is a record with some growing power. Additional listens pull the story together, and the production is definitely better suited to playing on a louder system as opposed to headphone listening: this is singalong music that, um, celebrates that final thunderclap that will see us all in Hell. I initially didn’t care for it and it’s definitely hit a turning point. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one of those ratings that, in retrospect, I regret. That said, pop-punk is a tricky genre, one that mostly follows the rules. Its specialty lies in the nuance and said nuances on Brainless God just don’t grab me for the most part. I think a fair amount of that lies in the production.

7.0 / 10Loren
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Red Scare

2013

7.0 / 10

7.0 / 10

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