Brain Capers was the album that should have made Mott the Hoople the stars that they deserved to be. This was their final album with Island records, and without doubt, the best album that they ever made. This album reflects what Mott could achieve live. But up until this point, they had failed to recreate the excitement of their live sound on vinyl. Produced by the legendary Guy Stevens, they caught the live side of the band with classics such as 'Death May Be Your Santa Claus', 'Sweet Angeline', 'The Journey' and of course their parting shot at Island records, 'The Moon Upstairs'. There was also the emotion of 'Second Love' and the future vocalisations that would be Ian Hunters trade mark on 'Your Own Back Yard'. This is a Rock classic that was all too quickly removed from the Island library. If you must buy an album by Mott the Hoople that reflects the early years, this is the one.
Bit like Genesis before Peter Gabriel left, this is the final MTH album before they went "commercial", All The Young Dudes et al. True early 70s Brit Pop - polished it isn't, but the roots of all that followed are here. Ian Hunter's classic ballad The Journey and The Moon Upstairs are standout tracks, but all of this album is listenable and timeless.
Takes me back to Portsmouth Guildhall and the Rock'n'Roll circus tour. Ian Hunter, Iron cross guitar round his kneck squalling feedback, hands outstretched to the audience, standing on top of a buckling electric paino and every hair on my body standing on end as the audience goes utterly ape. A lot of talk here about this album inventing punk rock which misses the point, this is just what great road honed rock'n'roll sounded like in the early 70s. This is well captured live in the studio stuff.....Death May be Your Santa clause is great fun, The Journey is actually a well constructed light/Shade piece, Angeline is beautiful as is Second Love, Moon Upstairs has enough riffs to fill half a Black Sabbath album. I came home from that Rock'n'roll circus gig and ordered an electric guitar from my mate's mum's catalogue and have spent the last 40 odd years merrily gigging away in pubs and clubs. This still sounds inspirational today, I really, really reccommend it.
When you consider that Mick Ralphs rates this as MtH's best album, although he only co-wrote one song on the thing, you know it's got to be worth hearing. After the '73 MOTT album, this is the most generally-lauded work of the Motts. There's not a pedestrian moment here, and everything crackles with energy (desperation, according to those present at the recording!). The chief hard rockers are Death May Be Your Santa Claus and The Moon Upstairs, written by Hunter-Allen and Hunter-Ralphs respectively. Personally, I think the 'Mott predated Punk' claim is bull (mostly), but these tracks do give some credence to the idea - they sound almost like the Sex Pistols jamming Deep Purple in Rock numbers! Manic, huge-sounding and exhilarating. Ralphs' vocal take on Darkness Darkness is more lean and streamlined, but still hard-rocking and 'classic'-sounding. Angeline, meanwhile, is happy hard rock with a slightly melancholy edge (a trick Thin Lizzy went on to perfect). And The Journey is the early band's epic - moving and grandiose, then exploding in a wave of punky heaviness. Buy with confidence - this album rocks, but displays soul too.
I first bought this album exactly 40 years ago when Mott were history but I was still backfilling their 'early stuff'. I'd already discovered that I actually preferred that 'early stuff' (especially the Mad Shads album and the laughably under-appreciated 'Thunderbuck Ram', which has somehow missed out on being accorded 'classic' status) when I compared it to the 'glam stuff' - great as the hit singles and the CBS albums undoubtedly were. But, back then and throughout the four decades since, to my ears 'Brain Capers' took it up yet another notch or two. Or three. Or six. What. An. Album. It treads the line brilliantly between order and chaos, effortlessly encompassing power, passion, attitude, musical nous and an ear for an unforgettable melody, riff, bass line, organ part etc etc etc. I believe they knocked off this masterpiece in less than a week, which says a lot about the creative process when it's in the right hands. And when you're talking about tracks like 'Santa Claus', 'Backyard', 'Angeline' and (above all) the seismic yet poignant 'Journey' - four of my all-time Top 10 Mott tracks - it's abundantly clear that Hunter, Ralphs and the gang very much qualified as 'right hands'. Ludicrously good album by a ridiculously good band.
Definitely one of the wackiest albums ever recorded, every track is an absolute corker. The whole album was put onto tape in 5 days of madness at Advisions studios London. For the sessions Guy Stevens the bands original mentor was brought back after not being at the controls for the bands previous album "Wildlife" (which the band themselves had already dubbed mildlife) Guy arrived at the studio with engineer Andy Johns, who was feeling no pain having just come away from the Rolling Stones, armed with a case of Vino Calapso and dressed as Zoro with cape, mask and sword, insisting the tracks were all laid down in one take. "Brain Capers" (featuring the Brain Caper Kids) as the album became known, had an amazing atmosphere with last gasp energy capturing Mott in a wild and manic mood, predating punk rock, the overall feel of Brain Capers was barely controlled chaos, but it remains a brilliant and crucial album. Once described as the great lost hard rock L.P. of all time, the record drew a line in the sand between sixties and seventies music (recorded in 1971 six months before Bowie gave Mott "All The Young Dudes") revealing almost everything called rock and the subsequent punk movement six years later to be nothing short of a copy, after just one listen to this album you can clearly hear where "The Sex Pistols" and "The Damned" got their influences. Opening track "Death May Be Your Santa Claus" is a pounding rocker with fearsome guitars, wailing organ, a catchy hook, and carrying a trademark message of defiance. Tracks two and three were imaginative and tasteful covers versions of Dion Dimuccis auto biographical anti drug song "Your Own Backyard" and the Young bloods neglected classic "Darkness Darkness" featuring Mick Ralphs on vocals and contained some excellent guitar. Mott had the panache to re-interpret other writers material with feeling and understanding. "The Journey", a sad introspective masterful ballad, some eight minutes long was Mott equivalent of Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven", building to a dramatic conclusion. The Journey started life as a poem, before becoming the central piece of Mott's stage act, demonstrating Hunter is a writer who has made a major contribution to rock music. The song was also a personal favorite of Verden Allen, who's keyboard playing excelled throughout Brain Capers most notably on this opus. "Sweet Angeline" is a brilliant all out rocker, with Hunter adopting Dylanesque vocals, and is still in his solo live set today. "Second Love" was Verden Allen's first song recorded by Mott the Hoople and fair plucks at the old heartstrings. The penultimate track "The Moon Upstairs" is one of the most powerful tracks that Mott ever recorded. The song was unquestionably six years ahead of its time being a frightening "New Wave" fuzz tone premonitions that musically and lyrically rendered late seventies "Punk Rock" tone clumsy, and lacking in any real substance. Brian Capers coda was a two minute instrumental piece named "The Wheel Of The Quivering Meat Conception" which was actually nothing more than the climax from a frantic jam from one of the sessions from "The Journey" a fine way to close the album. Mott the Dog.
I'd completely forgotten about this album (I didn't buy it at the time) until I saw a BBC documentary about Mott. It's not my favourite Mott album but it is full of energy and some of the songs are years ahead of some of the punk songs that almost imitate.