PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Brick Layer Cake: Whatchamacallit

Brad Cohan

Brick Layer Cake


Label: Touch & Go
US Release Date: 1969-12-31

Brick Layer Cake:
Todd Trainer -- Guitars
Todd Trainer -- Drums
Todd Trainer -- Vocals

As the above caption humbly states in the accompanying press release, Shellac drummer Todd Trainer assumes the role of multi-instrumentalist in his "band" Brick Layer Cake, responsible for everything played on Whatchamacallit. While the excursion into the one-man-band has proven a difficult task, prone to egomaniacal pretension and a superficial product, the concept has worked before. Thrones, Joe Preston's (Earth, Melvins) death-heavy metallic sludge project, produced Sperm Whale/White Rabbit, one of the exceptional discs released in 2001.

Having provided the percussive backbone for Steve Albini's influential minimalist post-punk trio Shellac for nearly a decade now, one would get the impression Trainer would either benefit from their angular hooks and precise grooves and incorporate it into his own song craft or inherit Albini's underground rock-renowned bombastic, obnoxious disposition. Unfortunately for those exposed to Whatchamacallit (which Albini recorded with Trainer), the lone member of BLC opts for the latter, producing an overly pretentious, plodding mess of a record. At the same time, Trainer is short on the cred his Shellac bandmate owns, who can do whatever the fuck he wants while remaining a respected presence within the indie rock umbrella -- even recording the ultimate fake-grunge posers, Bush, earns him a free pass.

Nearly eight years have separated BLC's last effort called Tragedy, Tragedy and the new Whatchamacallit, an album so painstakingly slow, one listen straight through at 36:23 is akin to eight years of one's life. On "Stars", the opening track, I felt compelled to inspect my CD player for a malfunction. "No," I concluded. "That actually is playing at the right speed." "Stars" sets the tone for the album's duration -- Trainer languidly treads on monotonous, jarring guitar lineage, slooooow-motion drum crashes and a demonic croon. However, compliments are due to Trainer for maintaining consistency -- the absence of rhythmic flow and tempo changes establishes the record as one very long song.

In essence, it would be best to avoid Brick Layer Cake's Whatchamacallit. But in the end, Todd Trainer and his association with Shellac, the exclusive Touch & Go label, Rifle Sport, Breaking Circus, et. al, will fool impressionable indie kids into thinking this shit is actually cool. And, that's a damn shame.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.