For the title alone, “Death May Be Your Santa Claus” should win a medal, but it’s backed up by a stupidly long percussive intro before blasting through a glorious kiss-off, self-censored on the choruses to prove their own terms. Since wacky covers were a hallmark of the band, “Your Own Backyard” is a clean-and-sober anthem by Dion DiMucci (yes, of the Belmonts) given the Mott treatment, then Mick Ralphs insists on singing “Darkness, Darkness” by the Youngbloods, full of tension and bite. We’re due for another Ian Hunter epic, and “The Journey” delivers, from its lighter-waving verses and choruses, a sensitive bridge, and then a pile-driving second section, Ian’s voice cracking at all the right spots.
“Sweet Angeline” brings straight rock ‘n roll via pounding piano eighth notes, and the priceless rhyming summation, “You have rendered me obscene.” He strains to hit the notes on “Second Love”, which Verdon Allen wrote, but once again the quiet beginning gives way to volume, and even some mariachi horns from Jim Price, straight off of Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main St. (It was 1971, after all.) The anger that opened the album comes back full throttle on “The Moon Upstairs”, all fuzz and riffing, and no self-censorship this time. And just to put forth a final statement, “The Wheel Of The Quivering Meat Conception” presents the last minute or so of the end of “The Journey”.
Brain Capers was the band’s big shot to make it, and it nearly didn’t, if not for one generous fan. We’ll get to that soon enough, but for now, revel in the sound of a hard-working combo trying their damnedest to blow the shackles off their potential. Even with all the dynamics and pauses, your knees will jog happily.
Mott The Hoople Brain Capers (1971)—4