The Dead Betties – This Is My Brain on Drugs

The Dead Betties
This Is My Brain on Drugs

NYC trio The Dead Betties reemerge from the underground to spread their hepatitis-ridden, lo-fi sound. Their new LP, This Is My Brain on Drugs, turns out anxious alt punk jams that veer between hardcore and pop. Although stunted by a few duds, the album compels listening.

The Dead Betties have stayed busy, this being their third release in a year. Here, the band shies away from the experimental leanings of their EP, FUA. That disc managed cohesion despite its free will. This Is My Brain on Drugs falls short of gelling as an album even though the boys keep the guitar amps plugged in and turned up.

The songs are not brutal or exceedingly dense. Drums push the tempo while bass mirrors the guitar for low end support and the six string spurts riffs. Don’t fuss over the production or musicianship. Instead, appreciate how The Dead Betties’ thrust their personality into their songs.

Sadly, the album is dangerously uneven. Of the twelve tracks on This Is My Brain on Drugs, the first six are stellar. But track 10, “In Bed with Anne”, is the only bright spot during the album’s latter half.

First up, “Tuff Shit” drives forward, feeding on The Dead Betties’ low-fi, alt punk method. Power chords trace an aggressive thread while the static-marred vocal channels a Billy Corgan whine. This track is decidedly more aggressive than their previous work.

“Sick Days Are for Sex” is gritty dance punk. A thick staccato riff stomps beneath the breathy tenor, singing “I will be your doctor, tell you to undress / Show me where it hurts at, let me do the rest / You have to stay in bed all day, you have a fever / I am your prescription, take your medicine”. This brash seduction is unwanted but unavoidable.

Then, pop replaces hardcore on “Rock Rumbler”, a catchy song with a bouncing a back beat. Ringing guitar chords and harmonies make this one go down easy. “Cold Blooded” keeps pushing the tempo as the vocal adopts an edgier Chris Conley (Saves The Day) timbre.

The next three tracks are the album’s best. Title track “This is My Brain on Drugs” is a reprimand that thrives on punchy rock riffs and beat change ups. The dirty whisper vocal on “Cleo” sharpens the sprinting, abandoned riff. And “In Bed with Anne” runs double time. The surging, bottom heavy riffing makes for an infectious head nodder. Here, The Dead Betties’ youthful song writing captures a growing desperation.

The remaining five tracks don’t hold up. But the seven winners make This Is My Brain on Drugs worthy. The Dead Betties’ underground aesthetic lends itself to lo-fi production. Their better songs are almost visual, emitting a harrowing anxiety. To listen is to absorb dirty looks while waiting in a stranger’s house amid empties and buzzing, flickering fluorescent lights that fall dim on the polished concrete floor. So absorb some of these pop and hardcore alternative punk songs while you’re there.