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Category Archives: mott the hoople

If ever an album demanded an “ultimate edition” type of repackaging, it is Mott the Hoople’s Brain Capers, a record that was so divisive, so damaged, and ultimately so destructive that the bandmembers themselves needed two goes at getting it all down on tape — one self-produced, the other with regular producer Guy Stevens — before finally emerging with, as Ian Hunter put it, the sound of a band tearing itself apart. They broke up just months later. Tantalizing snippets from the unused portion of the sessions have been scattered across a wealth of compilations, and Angel Air’s remastering adds one more to the pile, an alternate version of the multi-hued panic of “The Journey.” (The other bonus cut, a live version of the non-LP “Midnight Lady” single, is more or less dispensable.) It’s a shame — bolstered, as it already is, by best-ever sound quality and a superb booklet, this edition of Brain Capers should have taken the opportunity to bring everything together. Instead…well, maybe some day. That is, of course, the only regret one can possibly feel as Mott the Hoople’s fourth and (had it not been for Bowie’s subsequent intervention) final album. Hunter explained, “We were getting complacent. If you are a band like us, a lot of the adrenalin is set off by the audience. When you are in a studio, it’s a very barren sort of atmosphere, and it’s hard to get the substitute — to get the same kind of adrenaline into your body. You have to get yourself into a kind of rage. Some people get stoned, some get drunk. We smashed a few things about.” And, while he admitted that “the thought of wrecking a studio seems rather stupid, I can assure you we were pretty dead when we went in there, and five days later, we were really excited.”

The sessions reflect that excitement, transforming themselves before the band’s very eyes into what Ian Hunter later called “three days of madness, done very quickly.” Song titles were changed as their nature developed — “Mental Train” became “The Moon Upstairs,” “How Long” was reworked first as “A Duck Can Swim With Me” and then as “Death May Be Your Santa Claus.” The album itself came perilously close to being titled AC/DC before producer Stevens hit upon the far more suitable Brain Capers. The grinding riff that wraps up “The Journey” was reborn as the cacophonic closer “Wheel of the Quivering Meat Conception,” and the brace of covers that hove into view — “Darkness Darkness” and “Your Own Back Yard” — were steamrolled as thoroughly as the original material. The result would later be tagged among the least commercial albums ever released by a so-called rising rock band. But Mott was sick of rising and wound up, instead, with what rates among the most important of its age, as Hunter later realized. “I didn’t listen to [that album] for years, and then the punks started talking about it. You can actually hear the Sex Pistols loud and clear.”

-Dave Thompson,

Mott the Hoople-BRAIN CAPERS (1971)
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