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BRAIN SURGEONS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Eponymous (Cellsum) 1994
Trepanation (Cellsum) 1996
Malpractice (Cellsum) 1997
Box of Hammers (Cellsum) 1998
Piece of Work (Cellsum) 1999

Only a rock critic (or serious readers of rock magazines, like R.E.M.) would name her first album Eponymous. And, indeed, the head Brain Surgeons are none other than veteran New York journalist Deborah Frost and her husband, ex-Blue Öyster Cult drummer Albert Bouchard. On Eponymous, the singing-songwriting-rocking couple gets assistance from a bassist, three hornmen and such co-composers as Richard Meltzer and David Roter, resulting in an entertaining if self-conscious album that covers the Del-Lords and Coasters, conjures up the sonic influence of Danielle Dax, Public Image, Nina Hagen, Blondie and Foetus and even pokes absurdist fun at metal's dark obsessions in "(666) Devil Got Your Mother."

The more ambitious and serious Trepanation reconfigures the Brain Surgeons as a quintet in which Frost does most of the singing — in various voices, some (like the ligature-popping rasp she trots out for a rocking rendition of Robert Johnson's "Stones in My Passway") less appealing than others. (It's not clear if her imitation of Robert Plant on "Ramblin' Rose" is meant in tribute, parody or error.) Still, Frost demonstrates effective restraint in "Everything Is Blue" and lets it all roar in the AC/DC-like "Bad Habit." Patti Smith and Helen Wheels (like Meltzer and Roter, alumni of the BÖC brain trust) each co-wrote a number here; the collaborations yield everything from the dada picnic ruminations of "Hansel and Gretel" to the dreamy folk-rock poetry of "If U Come Close" and the accusatory bramble of "Sally."

[Ira Robbins]