Brat Curse, formerly Pharaohs, ripped through its 30-minute set at 4th St. Bar & Grill on a recent Thursday with admirable efficiency. The power-pop trio’s songs were generally taut and concise, and the musicians kept the between-song banter to an absolute minimum, like a prisoner of war loathe to give up any information to the enemy following his or her capture.
The crew kicked off the evening with the pummeling “Over and Over,” the opening salvo off its recently released, self-titled album. Here singer/guitarist Brian Baker sneered about getting (emotionally) crushed as the music attempted to (physically) do just that, layering together tangled, scuzzy riffs, rumbling bass and drums that mimicked a particularly rhythmic wrecking crew. Indeed, drummer Chris Mengerink proved consistently revelatory with his kit-work, simultaneously propelling the music forward while plugging the gaps with inventive fills.
Otherwise, songs were appealingly straightforward, conjuring images of similarly snotty pop-punkers Wavves. Occasionally, however, tunes took unexpected turns. The clattering “Space Junk,” for one, offered up a slow, mutated passage that found Baker singing “where is my head?” like a raspier Black Francis. Then there was a muted “Sunny Outside,” which, in defiance of the clear blue skies suggested by its title, shuffled along as numbly as a body pumped full of Novocaine. “I can’t feel anything,” Baker sang, his words barely cutting through the thick haze that enveloped the music.
Elsewhere, however, the emotions in the songs tended to boil over. On one number Baker howled about a relationship gone to pot (“Don’t know why I trusted you in the first place!”) as the trio locked in to a full-on temper tantrum. On another tune the frontman fretted about fading to nothing even as the volume did the opposite, gradually building to a pile-driving crunch.
It’s an approach that’s earned the crew its fair share of admirers. In a conversation the day before the concert, Sega Genocide singer Brian C.R. said one of his band’s more recent songs bore a strong resemblance to the trio’s output. “[Bassist] Jamie [Rymers] started writing this song, and I was like, ‘This sounds like Brat Curse,’ he said. “‘Keep Going!’” Judging by even this short performance, it’s easy to see why.