Sunday, November 16, 2008

Brains in Jars

Prisonshake’s Dirty Moons is a hard record. Not just difficult or complex--hard. This is the math exam you failed in High School.

It’s kind of maddening actually. They lyrics are good but they’re not actually about anything. Some of the rhythm changes make you seasick if you decide to listen with headphones.
And to top it off it’s a double album all about ideas. But there isn’t any philosophy to speak of. All of these songs just seem to double back on themselves musically. In other words, all of the excess we’ve come to expect from 4 sides of music with 12X the self-loathing in the lyrics.

I just felt bad listening to music this good. It’s unreal.

The most digestible way to describe this is experimental/garage rock. There are tape loops, blues guitar licks by Robert Griffin that are clean and narrow, circular drums, and really fantastic bass work that will probably surprise you more often than not.

There’s also a gong on “We’ve Only Tasted the Wine". A subtle gong. Zappa never screwed with anyone’s head that badly.

So yes it’s a hard record. But mostly because it’s also an important document. These are songs which were slowly pieced together for Scat Records from 1995 to 2007. Unlike the usual “pound the session into the ground" ethic with rock bands (see Hold Steady; Stay Positive) this is an album with the strength to stand up against the ravages of changing tastes and critical perspectives.

Dirty Moons contains some of the most deliberate and thoughtful composition you’ll see for quite a while. An album where you genuinely don’t know what the artists were thinking when they put it together. But the thesis I prefer to work from is that these are songs which are so removed from the conciseness of any group of musicians and which could honestly have a mind of their own at this point.

13 years is exactly as long as it feels. Except when it isn’t.

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