The Brain In A Box collection gets kind of weird after the first two discs. While film and television soundtracks/scores/songs are an easy fit and you can (and they did) put pretty much anything together, the “Pop” disc doesn’t feel so unified. Anyone can put a mixtape together, but when you’re restricted by licensing songs for a mass distribution compilation, money is going to become a factor in the quality received. I don’t imagine Rhino had very deep pockets when putting together the Brain in a Box, and it certainly wasn’t going to be blowing half its budget licensing a Bowie tune. So what results is an odd, 22-track mish-mash of rarely heard tunes of varying quality and equally suspect flow.
It kicks off with the promising surf-instrumental “Telstar” by The Tornados and The Marketts “Out Of Limits”, but soon thereafter devolves into a kitschy cheese-fest with the tragic warble of Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick with the 60’s psych “Have You Seen The Saucers” followed by the faux Elvis Costello nasal crooning of Graham Parker’s “Waiting for the UFO’s” (pronounced “You Foes” in the song) and Harry Nilsson’s 70’s orchestral pop “Spaceman”.
Some of the tracks sound like they should be on the incidental/lounge or novelty discs (Spirit’s “Space Child” or Jimmie Haskell’s “Blast Off”). Suburban Lewis’ “Flying Saucer Safari” sounds more like a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 joke production than a true blue pop song, while Soul Inc.’s grating “UFO” track sounds like a Muppet Show sketch featuring Dr. Teeth and Beeker, and even They Might Be Giant’s “For Science” or Lothar and the Hand People’s “Machines” tracks sound more like sketch comedy skit than what you’d think of as “pop”.
Joe Bennett and Sparkletone’s “Rocket” is an authentic 50’s rockabilly tune, while Stan Ridgeway’s defiantly 80’s sounding “Beyond Tomorrow” and the 60’s swing-soul “Rocket Ship” by Vernon Green and The Medallions all sound like potential low seeds on the top 100 in their respective eras.
As a compilation, it’s a decent and diverse selection, but bar too many tracks sound like kitsch extracts from sloppy B-grade sci-fi films, especially when listening to them one after another. You can just picture the fatties in their homemade alien/space-faring costumes roaming the floor of a sparsely attended convention rocking out to this piped in over the loudspeaker…
I should note that the bookends, the aforementioned Telstar, and the a capella “After The Gold Rush” by Prelude, are easily the best tracks, the latter standing out with it’s crisp vocals and genuine harmony, with nary a theremin or guitar to be heard.
Some tracks fare better upon repeat listening, others worse, but by and large they’re unmemorable and it’s no surprise why I haven’t returned to listen to it very often.
Roky Erickson - Creature With The Atom Brain