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Asylums - Killer Brain Waves

  • Published in Albums

From the off, Killer Brain Waves is a slap in the face to every mediocre indie band currently plying their trade. It's a nuclear weapon in an age of chivalry. Asylums just play better, harder and louder than anyone else. The first track 'Second Class Sex' is a hooky gut-punch of a tune. In it's opening 30 seconds there is more energy and rock 'n' roll essence than most bands generate in their whole career.

'Bad Influence' kicks off with a riff reminiscent of Nirvana's 'Very Ape' and moulds it into a Supergrass song. There are other nods to In Utero, particularly on 'Monosyllabic Saliva'. The production is as dense and heavy as Steve Albini's with hints of his other clients like The Pixies.

The production is fantastic. Asylums are so vital onstage that we assumed that the record would not compare favourably but on Killer Brain Waves they sound as good as, if not better than, they do live. Asylums' live show is a visual treat, not least because of frontman Luke Branch's Richard Ayoade fashions and hair, and Jazz Miell's  blonde mop and spinning guitar. The pair's electrified, spasmodic dancing contrasts beautifully with the stoical cool of bassist Michael Webster while drummer Henry Tyler goes the full Dave Grohl behind the kit. All of which comes across here. The rhythm section is full and rich sounding. Branch's vocals shine while Miell's raggedly skewed melodies lift the tunes from merely outstanding to another level entirely.

Asylums aren't just a one-gear band. 'Joy In A Small Wage' has a mid-tempo britpop style beat. The mid-to-late-nineties influence is strong across the album, be it Britain's post britpop output or North American post-grunge, both of which are clearly audible. Asylums breathe new life into the corpse of guitar-lead pop but thankfully avoid sounding as whiny as either of the aforementioned genres. Jazz Miell's guitar sets Asylums apart from Harvey Danger, Smashmouth, and other American Pie-era bands. His playing is quite similar to Weaves' Morgan Waters, particularly on the singles 'I've Seen Your Face In A Music Magazine' and 'Wet Dream Fanzine'.

The album is being released on their own label, Cool Things Records and the Southend quartet make their own videos with some artistic friends from the locality. Some of the tracks have previously been released as singles and Asylums have since honed their chops on tour with The Enemy, Killing Joke and Ash. They describe their music as ‘bipolar, manic distortion’ and it's a fair description, with elements of Sonic Youth sitting side by side with Blur. Killer Brain Waves is powerful, invigorating and simply incredible.

Killer Brain Waves is available via Amazon.


Asylums, Olympia Theatre, Dublin

  • Published in Live


Rising stars Asylums are a dynamic four piece from Southend-on-Sea. They have recently  toured with Killing Joke and The Enemy and tonight in the Olympia is their last gig of the year and the final date of a UK tour opening for Northern Irish rock veterans, Ash.

This is a big production tour on the imposingly spacious stage of the Grande Dame of Dublin's theatres but Asylums are out setting up their own gear the moment Scotland's Amorettes finish their set.

It's their first gig in Ireland and they announce themselves with howling feedback giving way to chugging riffs and ragdoll flailing. They describe their music as ‘bipolar, manic distortion’ and it's a fair description. They are a striking proposition and not just because of singer, Luke Branch's  Richard Ayoade hair .

Lead guitarist Jazz Miell looks like a younger, punkier Tom Petty. His limbs contort and flail wildly between licks. There's a constant  gurn on his face as if the guitar is playing through his whole body. Twin curtains of blond hair windmill around as he leaps around playing in the air and on his knees. He's like the godchild of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon and there are definite Sonic Youth elements to the guitar sound.

In contrast to the spasmodic performances of Branch and Miell, bassist Michael Webster is the  archetype of the effortlessly cool bassist. Like a young Paul Simenon, chewing gum and looking aloof, while drummer Henry Tyler pins down the beat and sings backing vocals.

The band slept on the floor of the ferry because the crossing was cancelled but you wouldn't guess from the energy of the performance. The Paris Climate Conference could hook these guys up to the grid and make an impact on climate change.

They are only on a short time, about 25 minutes all told, But the short songs and high tempo make it seem like they have played a full set.

Asylums are playing to a thousand people and taking it in their stride. Branch characterises Christmas spirit as "The misery of the Argos catalogue" and dedicates 'Missing Persons' to their employers back home who haven't seen them in work for a while.

They may not be back if this performance is anything to go by.

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