June 14, 2017 | by James Greene, Jr
A wise figure once said, “And lo, every punk-rock band will eventually go metal, add a keyboard, or go metal and add a keyboard.” This is true of Copenhagen’s Brats, though their springboard to full-on heavy metal involved a lineup rotation that saw the addition of screeching hell bird Kim Bendix Peterson. Peterson joined up in 1981; Brats became Mercyful Fate, Peterson became a corpse-painted warrior named King Diamond, and after seven albums the lives of long-haired parking lot crawlers would never the same. Aside from his evil mime greasepaint and herniated voice, King Diamond is best known for his elaborate microphone stands (which are often laden with bones or crosses — very graveyard Liberace).
Before King Diamond sauntered into their lives, (the) Brats spent five years duking it out as punks, though their dedication to the genre was never ironclad. 1980’s 1980, the one and only offering released during Brats’ existence, is a dive into NWOBHM waters that pays great respect to the tenets of Judas Priest.
Still, there’s ragged immediacy and ringing purity to 1980’s rockist smack. The smirky croon of singer/bassist Yenz Leonardt (né Jens Arnsted) is arrestingly human compared to his more beloved successor. What a shame Yenz evaporated into Europe’s power-metal scene (unless that’s what he had to do to remain true to his heart and vision). The cover of 1980 suggests Brats knew their authenticity might be questioned — the band poses with Flying V guitars and leather jackets in front of an enormous barcode that is captioned (in glorious Atari-era digital letters) “1980 BRATS.”
It is difficult not to be charmed by the raucous denim-clad clatter of 1980, not only because Brats pack in big marshmallowy melodies but also because they break off lyrical baubles like “She takes away all the lust in my hard-on.” Is that positive? Is it not positive? Like so much deft poetry, it could go either way, making it all the more fun to cry out apropos of nothing while perusing the cereal aisle at your local grocer.
In 2008, ARG Records dug up and released a Brats disc called The Lost Tapes: Copenhagen 1979. Containing a slew of songs for an album that was scrapped prior to 1980, The Lost Tapes gives us a much more down and dirty Killed By Death-style Brats. That said, those blazin’ solos right outta British Steel continue to surface, a clear signal that this band had precedent to mutate into the skull-laden pentatonic nightmare uptight parents of the ‘80s would abhor.
The Lost Tapes also contains a weird novelty called “Mr. Normal,” which utilizes the high-pitched vocal effect that turned Dave Seville’s Chipmunks into furry little one-percenters. Interestingly enough, though Alvin, Simon, & Theodore were experiencing a lull in 1979, a year later they would release their infamously awful (yet timely) Chipmunk Punk. Did the Brats, a Danish punk group existing in near oblivion, somehow know the C-munks were going to do an LP dedicated to the new wave? Did they concoct “Mr. Normal” in hopes of getting a piece of the official ‘Munk pie? Finally, some decent questions to throw at guitarists Hank Shermann and Michael Denner if you bump into them at a party.
1980 remains the premiere Brats product today if only because the higher production values allow for a greater exhibition of character (of course, if your favorite band is Social Unrest or you think the Melvins have become “too commercial,” by all means, go for The Lost Tapes first). Please note: (The) Brats are not be confused with the Brat, the US outfit of the same era whose zippy pop sting never strayed from guitar-based punk/wave growl. The Brat EP Attitudes from 1980 is another lost classic, and no vocals from singer Teresa Covarrubias are done Chipmunk-style.
Listen to 1980 in its entirety.