BRAINIAC by Justin Vellucci [Book Review]

| |

by Justin Vellucci
J-Card Press [2024]

Book Review: As a band whose story was cut short by tragedy, Brainiac has acquired a legendary reputation among alternative rock fans over the last two and a half decades. The Dayton, Ohio-based four-piece were on the verge of signing a major label deal when everything came screeching to a halt following the death of front man Tim Taylor in a car accident. It’s a story full of “what ifs” that still hits a raw nerve for the band’s dedicated followers, but a well-received documentary, an ongoing reunion tour, and multiple archival releases have cemented Brainiac’s influential legacy. The time seems right, then, to tell their story in a more complete form, which is exactly what Brainiac by Justin Vellucci attempts to do.

Touching on just about every part of Brainiac’s story, the book does an admirable job tracing the band’s history while analyzing what made them stand out amongst their peers. Vellucci takes a roughly chronological approach, but there are a few leaps to different points in the timeline (he starts with Taylor’s accident, for example, before jumping back to the beginning). Between each chapter are “Musical Interludes,” short essays that break down specific key tracks to illustrate the band’s approach to songwriting and performance. As the book unfolds, it sketches a compelling portrait of a band fully dedicated to the pursuit of joy in creating music—something that the surviving members continue to pursue as they keep the Brainiac spirit alive into the 21st century.

The book is very well-researched, and we hear straight from many of the key players involved in the Brainiac story in the form of interviews (in particular, surviving members John Schmersal, Juan Monasterio, and Tyler Trent). Scattered throughout are images of the band performing or hanging out, along with scans of flyers, t-shirt designs, and other ephemera. Vellucci’s writing is enthusiastic and does a nice job creating a sense of what it was like to be there as the band worked their way to the brink of wider acclaim. That’s not to say the book is perfect, though; the author’s enthusiasm occasionally borders on fawning, and some aspects of the story are given more attention than necessary (a history of Dayton and its economic downturn, for example) while others feel incomplete (Michelle Bodine’s role in the early days of the band is glossed over fairly quickly). And for a book as dedicated to the music as this one is, the lack of a Brainiac discography seems like a missed opportunity.

These are ultimately minor complaints, though. Taken as a whole, the book is the most comprehensive and well-rounded chronicle of the band yet, one that fills in some of the gaps in the excellent Transmissions After Zero documentary and brings the Brainiac story right up to the present day. It’s a clear labor of love that longtime fans of the band will cherish, and it’s a good way for newcomers to get a sense of what made Brainiac unique, influential, and ultimately loved by so many.

About the author of BRAINIAC:
Justin Vellucci started writing about independent music in 2001. A staff writer at PopMatters and Spectrum Culture, he’s also written for Punk PlanetDelusions of Adequacy and Gannett’s Jetty. He lives with his wife and two children in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

(Photo by K. Vellucci)
Simon Workman
Latest posts by Simon Workman (see all)

Kishi Bashi – “Colorful State” [Video]

GOBYLNS: Hunki Bobo [Album Review]


Leave a Comment