Brant Bjork & The Operators – Review

Brant Bjork & The Operators

by Craig Regala

OK. This guy’s primarily known as a drummer for Kyuss and Fu Manchu. He drums on his own rec too, as well as playing most of everything with a little help from his friends. Notably, Mario Lalli (of Fatso Jetson, guitar hero for the desert millennium) and the disc’s producer, Mathias Schneeberger on keyboards. I haven’t heard his other solo record, Jalamanta, sorry, I spent my allowance on a Beanie Baby (“Pouch,” the kangaroo with a joey) that week.

This is an OK-to-great pop rock disc drawing on all the stuff Brant’s liked that could fit on a summertime mix tape made to cruise around after graduating high school in ’83. So after rooting around everything he liked in his brother’s records, one of his dad’s organ trio soul-jazz sides, along with a couple New Wave tunes from his tape collection, he cobbled together a cool c-60. The good thing is he’s a musician and has that certain vision that’s not the mix-and-match sum of stuff he’s heard. So how do I, reviewer dork, know that? You ever watch CSI? There’s this guy who always says “the evidence never lies.” Well, neither does a record. If you bring a buncha extraneous crap to it or have to “know” something else, you’re not interested in music as much as pop culture ephemera. Fuck that. Here’s that mix tape:

War – “Lowrider”
The Cars – “Just What I Needed”
Gilberto Gil – “The Girl From Ipanema”
Kraftwerk – “Autobahn”
Ramones – “Do You Remember Rock’N’Roll Radio?”
Cheap Trick – “Oh Candy”
Hot Chocolate – “You Sexy Thing”
Nick Guilder – “Hot Child in the City”
Ace Frehley – his version of “New York Groove”
Led Zeppelin – “Ozone Baby,” “In the Evening,” “Fool in the Rain”
Stevie Wonder – “Higher Ground”
Steely Dan – “The Royal Scam”
Van Halen – “Jump”

Pretty fuckin’ good tape, huh? Well, there isn’t a song on Brant’s record that refers specifically to any of’m. Fact is, none of his tunes are as broadly arranged. Why? It’s the “certain vision” thing. What keeps tuggin’ at my sleeve is the streamlined nature of the thing. If you changed the tones and had a singer doing the barking or Euro-accented thing, you could trace this to the stripped-down Kraut Rock of Neu/Faust/Can. As it is, I’m always on about that stuff in the QOTSA/Kyuss/Fatso Jetson side of the desert stuff anyway. Whether they heard it or it’s a coincidence, I still hear it and many of the other voices in my head agree.

The music is basic guitar, bass, keys, drums, voice. The drumming is very, very specific, absolutely no fat – like those incredible r&b house bands in Detroit, Philadelphia, and Memphis, or Charlie Watts with the Stones. The bass is elastic and expressive, also owing a bunch to funk and r&b and minimal rock according to the tune’s needs. The guitar has a languid rock and roll vs. psychedelic soul feel, the kinda thing that supports the tune and will stretch out now and then, to take you on a little trip around the way. The keys, burble, loll, hum, make ’80s video game noises, do the laid-back soul jazz thing, and space out a bit. Nothing gets in anything’s way. It’s so well done you don’t even notice the artfulness of it. I guess that’s what separates “art” from “arty.”
(PO Box 629 Port Washington NY, 11050)