Sleep Rough, the debut LP from Charlotte's Brain F≠ (pronounced Brain Flannel), will not bowl you over with production values. The garage punk quartet seems to play through a fuzzy filter that shows competent and consistent, if never wowing, engineering. Songwriting won't be an immediate highlight, either—sure, the words are clever and catchy, but they're blunted by distortion and don't make an impression during the first few listens. What is immediately apparent—and makes Sleep Rough a record that will instantly drill itself into the head of most any loud-rock fan—is the band's endless churning, wrought by a precise mix of mind-rattling hooks and bone-crushing riffs.
Brain F≠'s instrumental core is truly a marvel. Drummer Bobby Michaud re-installs the pounding aggression he serviced in now-defunct noise-rock powerhouse Grids. Relocated to bass, Eddie Schneider forces the same never-ending momentum that he produces behind the kit as part of Yardwork's endlessly energetic pop-rock. Nick Goode blazes over the top, laying down riffs that ricochet wildly before landing with gut-checking force. It's a sound that sticks with you, and the band's razor-sharp hooks ensure it lodges permanently. Goode and singer Elise Anderson vocally dance around each other, alternating in antiphony to create neatly choreographed cacophony. Anderson's clean, dry tone pops like that of Madonna, but resounds with Kim Gordon's postmodern disdain. Goode matches her candy-coated cynicism with an exasperated bark. On standouts, like the triumphant closer "Fall Apart," they bob to and fro among the musical tumult, unleashing words in a tumble of winning phrases, each one more magnetic than the last.
Sleep Rough gets most of its mileage from this maneuver, and that's OK: It's enough to just bask in Brain F≠'s roar.