Little Brian’s Thrash Funk

By Ken Shimamoto

Metallic funk with horns! What the funk? But then again, aren’t trumpets and saxophones made out of metal?

Little Brian is a Denton-born instrumental band with a horn section, the key members of which (bass-guitars-drums-keys) have recently relocated to Austin. Bass player Sam Damask, who writes all the tunes, has spoken of making the horn charts available online so that any sufficiently motivated horn players can sit in. Absent vox, verbally oriented listeners who simply must have a text are referred to a self-published novel (to be sold at Little Brian gigs) written by the bass player’s sister Tarah Damask “to fully grasp the meaning and purpose” of the music. And here I thought that funk was its own reward!

I remember the first time I encountered the Red Hot Chili Peppers, on early ‘80s MTV. I was channel surfing and chanced upon 120 Minutes. Flea explained their style thusly: “We like to play like we have big dicks.” Little Brian’s music sounds like the Chili Peppers woulda if they’d had big brains. From the opening funkadelicious slither of “Slow Greasy,” this is feelthy stuff. On a typical song, the riddim section pummels you like Oscar de la Hoya, while the dual/dueling guitars deploy their whirlwind fury like nothing anybody’s heard since the multi-6-string-axe lineups of Ronald Shannon Jackson’s Decoding Society back in the late ‘80s. The horns don’t attempt post-Coltrane free-rock meltdown a la Steve Mackay on the Stooges’ Funhouse. Rather, they’re employed to add punch to Little Brian’s rhythmic attack and color to the band’s sonic palette.

“Ondarf” struts like the early-‘70s JBs in a manner not seen in these parts since Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings visited the Wreck Room (RIP) awhile back, and will get kids who never even heard of Jabbo Starks or Maceo Parker on their feet jammin’. “Bitch Gets Punked” and “Animal Cruelty” wind their way through a steeplechase of Zappaesque thematic shifts, sounding for all the world like leftovers from FZ’s Overnite Sensation-through-One Size Fits All period, minus the silly lyrics. “Car Chase,” with its high-note trumpet blasts, sounds like nothing so much as the One O’Clock Lab Band pumped up on steroids and human growth hormone. Listening to “Rat Damage” and “Slaughtered Seals,” one can imagine the splintered drumsticks and shredded guitar picks raining on the sea of banging heads and upraised devil signs in front of Little Brian’s stage.

Then as if to prove they’re from Denton, they finish it off by appending 20 minutes of Krautrock-like spacey noise, feedback, and musique concrete weirdness to the end of a track called “Party.” It’s the most willfully perverse use of the CD format since Mudhoney closed one of their discs with a “hidden” track that was the entire album played backwards. Now I definitely want to party with these dudes.

Oh, yeah: Little Brian’s Tim Burton-esque logo, drawn by bass player’s sister/novelist Tarah Damask, is the creepiest thing I’ve seen in eons.