Bionic Systems Go – Earthworm Court

Bionic Systems Go
Earthworm Court

Bionic Systems Go is a tale of two bands, of sorts. This release is more of a culmination of the band’s period of inactivity following their 1998 album and before their upcoming full-length. I suppose they couldn’t have been too inactive if songs were recorded, but only a few of the 12 songs were recorded by the full band. The remaining songs are basically a solo effort of frontman Phillip Gregory.
On one hand, we have a band that plays a rich, textured style of rock that falls somewhere between Catherine Wheel-style texture and Sugar-esque power-pop. There’s a lot of range in there, but the ability of Bionic Systems Go to sound cohesive and maintain their unique voice is admirable. But then, the band also has a quiet, more acoustic side, and it’s here that they lose their unique voice, for maintaining a similarity between these quieter songs and the more rock-oriented tracks just doesn’t work. You’d swear it was too different bands, and while all are good, it makes for something of a confusing listen.
The album starts off with one of it’s more pop-focused highlights. “Idle Inflations,” one of the full band efforts, begins with some fuzzed-out guitars and a more urgent feel, but the chorus is pure power-pop, lighter and more playful. It also has the longest fade I’ve heard in a long time. Then, “In Orbit” is vintage Jesus and Mary Chain, full of rich-textured guitars and spaced-out vocals, rich and quite well-done. Clearly one of the solo efforts, “Baby Hands” has a very light, poppy feel to it with some fantastic guitarwork, rich and bouncy and slightly retro-sounding. The distortion of “Plolly Underground” lends it a harsher, more rocking feel, despite the subdued vocals, and “Building on Bone” has a much more classic-rock sound with a riff that reminds me of “Feel Like Making Love” by Bad Company.
So, you’re getting used to that more rocking feel, and the album hits you with “Up in Flames,” a quiet, echoed acoustic number that might just send you searching the liner notes. Not the one token acoustic track, we get a short, almost folky acoustic number with “Pirateship Park.” Maybe my favorite track here is one of the acoustic songs. “To Be Blown Out” is a gorgeous track, moody and yet so lovely with a pop foundation. I can listen to this song over and over. “Food We Never Ate” is odd due to spacey effects lending a fuzzy feel to the whole song, but it’s very short and leads into “It’s For Me,” a very quiet, subdued track that still has elements of distorted guitar and vocals but uses more acoustic guitar.
It’s clear that Bionic Systems Go is Phillip Gregory’s band, as he keeps the moniker when performing all the instruments himself. But, surprisingly, it’s the songs done by the full band that are the most complete here. Some of these songs are really excellent and show a lot of promise for Bionic Systems Go, and others more likely show where they’ve been. Despite whether you prefer the quieter, acoustic pieces or the more textured rock songs, both sides of Bionic Systems Go are quite good.