Theo Verney – Brain Disease

Theo Verney is a name our ears have all started pricking up for in the BrightonsFinest office lately. His new Brain Disease EP  is hotly anticipated as the sound of this home-studio whizz perfecting the style he debuted on the Heavy Sunn EP back in October 2013. The thing that immediately strikes me as I start listening to the new EP is how polished the sound is for someone who has recorded at a home studio in his parents house – the main difference between this EP and the last appears to be the addition of drummer John Davies. In a recent Facebook post Verney modestly declared, “playing in time was… a new feeling for me.” Verney graduated from a music production course in Brighton before deciding to go solo and make all this amazing music, so it shouldn't really be a surprise that he's managed to put together something so cohesive, but it is surely a sign of his determination and work ethic: most of the home recordings I have listened to fall in to two camps – rushed out or overwrought. The really impressive thing about these recordings is not those luscious distorted guitar tones (and yes, they are fantastic) but the lively energy the whole EP carries. This sounds like a tight, well drilled live band playing together at the top of their game in the studio so it's remarkable that Verney performed everything you hear, apart from the aforementioned drums. The arrangements are very succinct – there isn't a song over 4 minutes in length – so there's a pop sensibility under-pinning all of that distortion, energy and psychedelia.

The title track 'Brain Disease' starts with a slow steady beat and blankets of distorted guitars. Things immediately pick up for the verse propelled by a big spring reverb on the guitars and there's even a touch of flange before the chorus kicks in with layers of vocals. Up next is 'Mountain Rose' which has been treated as a single for the release, it's driven by an up-tempo kraut-rock-esque beat, but this track betrays more than a little affection for the Madchester school of 90s psyche, sounding reminiscent of the Stone Roses at their best or perhaps even Liverpudlians The La's if they were on steroids. The guitar flourishes are fantastic with what sounds like a subtly played wah-wah pedal adding some great phase variation – it's possibly the strongest track on the EP and it captures a lot of sound and musical nuances that make me feel a little nostalgic.

'Wrong Again' starts softly with Verney's northern-sounding vocal dropping to a deeper drawl than usual, accompanied by a gently strummed guitar. It's not long before the wall-of-sound guitars kick in and Verney's vocals step up to a lung lacerating, yearning scream. I love the way the drums drop to half time for that chorus and the guitar layers pull out heroic melodies over the chords, despite Verney's lyrics being full of self-loathing about mistakes and regrets: “I'm wrong again/don't belong again”. 'Hate Within' continues to plough a lyrically dark furrow, but this time contrasts it with a very 60's sounding verse before the huge guitars hit, making the chorus pure grunge. The intervals are very short on this number, so we lurch from the bouncy verses into the dense chorus with little time to gather our thoughts. There's a great psychedelic section after the second chorus, which gallops along playfully building tension before the third chorus, which gives way to a surprising moment of heavy rock riffing and half time drums.

The EP finishes on 'Same Look In My Eye' which has a lovely laid-back 70s vibe to the extended intro and verses but, you guessed it, the chorus is far grungier with some lovely little guitar trills. The first guitar solo is a brief distraction, soaked in tonnes of reverb, even for a record that uses that effect very liberally, the section that follows even sounds like there's a lovely vintage sounding organ thrown in for good measure. It fades on this final wig-out, the sort of thing you can be pretty certain the band will extend for live shows and then it's time to start from the top and listen again! There's no fat at all on this charming five track EP and it taps into a rich vein of psychedelia with a wide-ranging set of influences, despite this (all the retro tones and references) the EP feels very current. We're in the midst of a brand new psychedelic renaissance and I, for one, am loving it!
Adam Kidd