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.