Cerebral Ballzy's debut EP, You're Idle, was as unexpected and explosive as a grenade going off in your hand. It was four songs in about seven minutes by five skater guys from Brooklyn who survive entirely off only two food groups: "beer" and "pizza." See, hardcore punk enjoyed a short but gloriously insane moment after it got super-fast but before it got super-serious, when all you needed to guarantee future infamy were a few chords, something to trash-talk in your lyrics and a name that would enrage parents, cops, teachers and youth pastors as much as possible. (Fearless Iranians From Hell? The Fartz? The Crucifucks? All classic with a capital K.) And that's the kind of hardcore Cerebral Ballzy plays. They're younger, louder and snottier than anybody else, and when they finish a set, they don't just leave a mark—they leave stains.
On their first tour in London, says singer Honor Titus with a laugh, he puked onto a fan, who disappeared to a fate unknown in one of Cerebral's vicious circle pits. At their first pro recording session for their to-be-released-in-July full-length on Adult Swim's label Williams Street, he puked onto the fancy mic the studio had set up to record "Puke Song," which is about exactly what you'd think it's about, but also has a strangely melancholy guitar break in the middle. (Which Titus dresses up by making puke sounds, naturally.) At one show, guitarist Mason—no last name divulged—popped his face open after a nasty fall; at another, he popped some other guy's face open after some unprovoked slapping, and then he got to spend a night in an English jail.
("Mason wouldn't shut the fuck up about how England has the best fucking prison treatment in the world," says Titus. "Like, you press a button, and they bring you a cup of tea! And he woke up and had a better breakfast than we all had that fucking morning—a full English breakfast!")
At countless venues, they leave behind a Cerebral Ballzy-shaped puddle of spilled beer, sweat and your choice of human head fluids—spit, tears, snot, whatever else comes out in the course of high-intensity punk fun. In February, at what may have been the last local show they played before getting signed, they splattered themselves across the walls at an underground warehouse show, with Titus swinging from speaker stacks and screaming about . . . let's see . . . puke, subway fare, drugs, underage drinking, subways again and just how awesome it is to be in Cerebral Ballzy.
And it does seem pretty awesome. Fans that night got so excited they actually tried to climb the walls—whether that was some kind of primitive survival instinct or just a strategy to see over tons of punks smashing anything that moved, including themselves. When the girls aren't chasing the band, which they do with enough unsettling vigor that Titus says there are certain states in which the band have to watch out for certain super-fans—"Shit is gnar," he warns—the dudes are chasing them for the exact same reasons.
"Dudes can't contain themselves around us," he says. "It's kind of gnarly. Dudes are just super-stoked. Like, dudes in London say, 'I'm not gay, mate, but you're the only dude I'd fuck!' Like . . . what the fuck are you talking about, dude?"
But extensive psychological analysis of what it means to be in love aside, Cerebral Ballzy really do inspire serious devotion. Old D.C. hardcore heads who see last year's EP title and start thinking of the Teen Idles, Ian MacKaye of Fugazi and Minor Threat's famous first band, won't be disappointed for a second. Neither will anyone who loves the way Darby Crash of the Germs could "Blllllleaaaaaaaaaaurgh!" over trashcan drums, or how the Fix could bend a guitar riff to point two directions at once. And if you remember when the Beastie Boys were a bunch of insane New York teenagers making wrecked hardcore punk such as "Egg Raid On Mojo," then Cerebral Ballzy will feel like a firm handshake from a dear old friend.
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The key here is what aerospace engineers call "purity of concept." Cerebral Ballzy like to skate, drink beer, eat pizza, ignore stupid laws, trash-talk and be insane at high velocity. Happily, that's exactly what they sound like. They don't try to force anything else in, even though Titus admits he loves Cyndi Lauper so much he'd marry her. "I'd bone Cyndi, dude," he says. "Put it out there."
And happily, that's exactly what they live like, too. When Titus wakes up completely hungover from all that disgusting Cerebral awesomeness, what's the cure? No Tylenols, no herbal whatever, not even water. "Another beer, man," he says. Easiest question in the world.
This article appeared in print as "Barfing Their Way to the Top: Cerebral Ballzy bring hardcore punk back from the Minor Threat days—except with more puke!"