Cerebral Ballzy at Urban Lounge on June 18. Photo: Peter Anderson
As Cerebral Ballzy eased into the intro of “On the Run” at Urban Lounge last June, you knew that front man Honor Titus was going to do justice to the Dead Boys back patch on his jean jacket. The normal, grooving, garage rock vibe that Urban usually hosts transmogrifies into a pissed, circle-pit hardcore show as Titus screams, “Catch me if you can! Catch me if you can! I don’t think you can!” At first, it seems hard to believe that these punk Brooklynites are opening up for the relatively more mellow Black Lips. As I chat with the band, though, they find nothing peculiar about the sub-genre mixing—Titus says of the Black Lips, “They’re punk as fuck. They do what they want, we do what we want.” During their first time in Salt Lake City, Cerebral Ballzy not only kills it, but vomits all over it with corrosive jams about “girls, and puking and skateboarding,” as Titus puts it. Once drummer Abe Sanabria throws down the beat, Urban is an all out party—these guys know what they’re doing. “We’ve been partying for a long time,” Titus says. When the audience lapses into a break from moshing, Titus keeps the rage going as he gesticulates a circle with his finger and urges the crowd on, saying, “Circle pit. Circle pit.” As my buddy Brooks Hall told me about a month before this performance, “The Black Lips have tricked all the hipsters into listening to hardcore by taking Cerebral Ballzy on tour.”
For somewhere between three and four years, Cerebral Ballzy have played shows and toured wherever a city will let them barf. At a train stop in New York City on 14th and 6th Avenue, a former friend of Titus’ dropped a slice of pizza on the tracks, hopped on down there where he could have been hit by the subway, retrieved the slice and ate it. “I was like, ‘Man, that was ballsy,’” he says. Once he said it, the connection with cerebral palsy floated around in his head and thus, Cerebral Ballzy was born. The band has managed to maintain all original members in their current lineup. Guitarist Jason Banny reflects, “We were all just friends before we started playing music together. We were always partying and skating. When we started the band, we just continued doing the same shit.” As you can infer from song content like “Sk8 All Day” and their music video for “Insufficient Fare,” these guys are sure to get in some crucial skating time while on tour—guitarist Mason James even played the show with a broken wrist that he incurred from tearing it up in Cleveland, Ohio. He says, “It was never a plan to start a band. It was never an idea. It kind of just happened and we went with it.” Titus adds, “I can’t lie, we’re getting some pretty good tunes out of it.” Ever since, they have destroyed Brooklyn, Manhattan, and have even toured Europe and England. They’ve shared the stage with the likes of OFF!, Trash Talk and Thrush Metal, an all-female band whose shirt Mason wears, which features images of their vaginas.
If you haven’t heard Cerebral Ballzy, they pump out snotty hardcore in the vein of Circle Jerks, and early Clit 45, sans the political edge. As far as their influences go, Titus says, “I’m a big Dead Boys fan. Big Agent Orange fan. We get Bad Brains comparisons a lot—I don’t think that’s really smart, just because there’s black dudes in the band.” Since July 26, everyone smelly enough has been able to get up on their ballz and pick up their first album, Cerebral Ballzy, which came out on Adult Swim. “I think it’s going to change the face of what’s going on in music in America,” says Titus, “I think a lot of people should hear it.” Thematically, Cerebral Ballzy’s songs are simple and to the point—“We just play what we live,” says Sanabria. “It’s the soundtrack to our lives.” Although they keep their work fairly minimalist, lyrically-speaking, their songs never come across as contrived or as a rehashing of played-out topics. I mean, they haven’t reinvented punk, but you know that. In “On The Run,” when Titus bellows, “Don’t want to deal with the consequences of being young and reckless,” and about running away with only his backpack being visible as he flees, he has actually had to run away from cops, fights and what have you. There’s also major drug enthusiasm in songs like “Drug Myself Dumb” and in “Junkie For Her,” a song that aptly combines the fiending for a girl and its heroin-like addiction: “She’s bad news and I’ve got nothing to lose, so I’ve gotta choose if she’ll fall for my ruse.”
Ultimately, with no song that clocks in longer than 2:03, this album functions like a brain-squashing drug of its own. If you’re not too cool for nasty hardcore, grab this release so you can get wild and be one of “the fucking weirdos, the freaks, the junkies, idiots, the dumb kids [or] the hipsters” at their next appearance in Salt Lake. Bring them drugs, too, so they can maintain their initial impressions of our salty city: Titus says, “It seems way more open than I thought it’d be … I thought it was going to be dudes churning butter, to be honest. Everyone seems like they know what’s up.”