Review: Warm Brains – Big Wow

By Mani Khawaja (@manikhawaja88)

How does one judge an album where it almost feels as if those involved in the project don’t want you to figure out how talented they are? Deceptive might not be the best word to describe it, but you could easily be fooled into thinking that Big Wow, an album by Rory Attwell, under the moniker of Warm Brains, is just another innocuous release.

Only after repeat listening does Attwell’s brilliance start to become apparent. This was clearly a labour of love, painstakingly crafted.

Big Wow is a complex piece of art, filled with layers of grungy and psychedelic sounds and self-deprecating lyrics. The lo-fi production values only add to the ruse.

Attwell spends most of the album singing in a deadpan style that took me a long time getting used to. I couldn’t make up my mind about whether the vocals gel with everything else. In fact, I’m still conflicted. Much like the issues with Tom Delonge’s voice work with Angels and Airwaves, either it does it for you or it’ll sound like a stand-in singing over somebody else’s music – which would be ironic, since Attwell has composed, recorded and produced just about everything on this album, including the artwork.

‘The Islandman’ is a personal highlight, which is very different from anything that precedes it. A haunting guitar riff on repeat with morose vocals, it acts as a relaxant from the more manic tracks. I would personally have kept it as the last song on the album as it’s a perfect send-off.

Big Wow is hard to pin down into a specific genre. On first listen I thought this was a shoegaze band, which would be an inaccurate assumption. You can hear elements of all the popular bands Attwell has been involved with. If it were a film it would alternate from the precise artistry of Wes Anderson and the grit and brawn of Guy Ritchie. It’s an acquired taste but hopelessly addictive for those who can find its appeal.

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