Brainstory ‘Buck’ LP (Big Crown) 4/5

Originally hailing from the San Bernardino Valley in Southern California, an area not wholly connected to the wider music industry, but nonetheless, Brainstory release ‘Buck’ their second album on the consistent Brooklyn based Big Crown Records, a mainstay of contemporary soul and funk releases. Brainstory is based around a trio featuring two brothers, Tony Martin on vocals and bass, and Kevin Martin on guitar and vocals, plus Eric Hagstrom on drums with additional keyboard, percussion and flute parts performed by label co-owner, producer and heavyweight musician in his own right Leon Michels.

The ten-track album begins with the quirky ‘Breathe‘, which is a slightly offbeat modern two stepper which evokes a laid back West Coast blued eyed soul sensibility and would be a strong radio playlist contender – for those that cared about such things. ‘Sorry’ uses a similar electronic drum pattern underneath its main acoustic drum kit as used by Timmy Thomas on ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’ (1972), while the vocals consider the virtues of asking God for advice.

‘Thank You’ is a semi instrumental track of sorts with a repeated chorus of, ‘thank you for you and who you are’, followed by an unhurried guitar solo during the second half of the piece. Brainstory’s previous 45 release for Big Crown, the heartfelt ‘Dead End’, discusses the difficulty in letting go after a relationship breakdown, while its B-side ‘Mnemophobia’ with falsetto vocals akin to Eddie Kendricks highlights the fear of past memories. The rest of the album is in similar form, including a slight Beatles influence within ‘Lucid Dream’ and the bluesy ‘Reclaim‘ speaks of reclamation over an infectious downtempo groove, but essentially, there isn’t a bad track on the album.

The warm, analogue richness that is ever-present in all of Big Crown’s releases is also present here and ‘Buck’ stays very much within its influences of rhythm guitar-led early 1970s Southern soul. But this is not just a rehash for the sake of retro-ness. Many of the songs are especially quirky and idiosyncratic but without any pretentiousness. The band have utilised their musical influences, as mentioned, but have also added their own personalities to the album. On their Discogs profile, the album is identified as being ‘Indie Rock’ – which it plainly isn’t. This is a modern soul record of high quality. Previously, the group have released more rock-orientated material, but this shouldn’t put off seasoned soul and funk listeners; this writer is openly averse to rock music’s constitution and all its components. A very strong album from the trio which has been issued on various coloured vinyl pressings, but I still have no idea what the title ‘Buck’ means.

Damian Wilkes