The 2011 self-titled debut from Raleigh's Whatever Brains followed a series of scuzzy singles that were fetching for their low production values and skewed take on garage and punk. By that token, the LP's varied stylistic reach was both overwhelming and engrossing. The album moved from brutally bent surf-rock to psychotically insular dance music and on to psych-rock epics, all while maintaining a devastatingly sardonic sense of political resignation.
The Brains' similarly self-titled follow-up arrives less than a year after its predecessor, and is every bit as impressive — albeit for different reasons.
Whatever Brains' second long-form offering favors precision over inclusiveness. Spanning 13 tracks in 36 concise minutes, the album dives headlong into the band's signature mix of dingy, hard-nosed garage-punk further complicated by tangling off-kilter guitarmonies. In songs like the searing and sarcastic "I'm Going Martin" and the fractured-but-forceful "Drink the Salt," the band hones its craft without tearing it apart. The latter rides the most refined and rollicking instrumental the band has yet produced, its viciously psyched-out guitar tones colliding in a five-alarm freak out.
Similarly sharpened is the wit of singer Rich Ivey. Bolstered by a smoldering bass line on "The Petfinder," he searches for an animal that can stand up to his absent-minded care, dropping gems like, "My girl wants a toy poodle/ And I'm okay with that/ I think I'm man enough/ And I say 'goddamn' so much."
By focusing on their strengths, Whatever Brains' second LP is also the band's most satisfying release — even if it offers fewer surprises.