I once saw an episode of The Outer Limits called “The Borderland,” about this mad scientist who was opening a doorway to an alternate dimension through the clever use of electricity and oblique equations called Hausdorf’s Theorems. One experiment, naturally, went bad. When the mad scientist stuck his left hand through his electronic gateway into the alternate dimension, it came back as a second right hand!
The Brain Surgeons must have liked this episode too, because the cover of their Piece of Work two-CD set has a painting of someone with a second right hand! And you can’t tell if the BS guy is laughing or screaming, which is pretty much how the Outer Limits scientist felt, because having a second right hand was scary but also quite, uh, handy—whenever he needed funding for more experiments, all he needed to do was whip it out for the potential benefactor, removing all doubt that he was a bona fide mad scientist.
This is also pretty much the case with Piece of Work. Its idiosyncrasies leave no doubt the Brain Surgeons are bona fide mad scientists of hard rock. The first disc, Piece, holds most of the heavy stuff, with (rock critic) Deb Frost’s and (ex-Blue Öyster Cult drummer) Al Bouchard’s vocals whispering between cracks in guitar noise. Infrequently, a neo-BÖC riff crawls out of the fog and tugs menacingly at your trousers before slinking away. One number is an ode to a hot dog man, and if I were the hot dog man being summoned, judging by the Surgeons’ sinister tone, I’d go home and hide under the bed until the coast was clear.
The second disc, Work, has a version of Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” that veers into the Oort cloud (that’s in outer space), a drum solo, and tunes that would make good soundtrack choices for Kiss Me Deadly. The entire set is framed by the genuinely purty a cappella “Biloxi,” apparently written by an old draft dodger. There’s also a soul-horn revue number in there somewhere.
Piece of Work contains an attractive photo album, showing the Brain Surgeons to be normal-looking, happy people who enjoy participating in “live music parties” and fly fishing. This is to reassure the listener that the flipped-out-sounding stuff inside is not an indication that they really are mad scientists with two right hands.
Cellsum, Box 1070, Fort Greene Station, NYC 10040.