Prinzhorn Dance School
Prinzhorn Dance School
DFA / EMI
have some fond memories of Britain's car parks. My favorites are those that service out of town retail parks. At night, they sometimes attain a strange... resonance . One can leave a vehicle and be surrounded by acre upon acre of empty tarmac. When cleared of cars, simply kicking a can or pushing a trolley seems far stranger than it really should. The nothing blows sound and movement into epic proportions. At its best, Prinzhorn Dance School's self titled debut comes close to replicating this otherworldly ordinariness that descends when the staff of The Vue have gone home. At worst, it's the White Stripes.
Much has been made of the band being signed to the EMI-bankrolled DFA label. It is slightly curious: they do, and this is by no means a bad thing, sound like the kind of bands John Peel was discovering twice a week until he died. It also seems strange they have received the patronage of NY's hippest and EMI's hard-earned, rather than a series of BBC sessions and a couple of semi-obscure albums on Radar or Too Pure. That they come from the year 2007 is equally odd. You'd expect them to have been missing in action since 1996. They make sound by hitting a guitar, drum, and bass; their press makes this sound a little more abrasive and weird than it actually is. It's certainly sparse, but every track is anchored by bass phrases that are, in their own way, rather catchy, pop almost. This stuff is weird in comparison to, say, the View (to pick a strawman), but it's hardly Derek Bailey either.
Still, weirdness is contextual. The DFA should really be commended for using their cachet to throw these awkward songs from Britain's tarmaced and grey lands to the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! kids. The idea of some dorm rat being screamed at by limeys about such subjects as the NHS and egg and cress sandwiches is almost enough to give one a patriotic flush.
Prinzhorn Dance School's saving grace is their willingness to embrace the utopian heresy of indie. The shameful idea that their music is not for everyone, its spiky refusal to communicate on anything but its own terms; their songs may be merely cryptic clues for cliques. Sometimes, though, it feels like they are scared to push it further, too afraid of Q magazine middlebrow mockery to take their idiosyncrasies to the edge. Occasionally the resonance is lost, and all that's left is a drab, wearing grind, something like Wednesday morning, or listening to the Kills.
In these days, where bands are thrown to the wolves on the basis of debut releases, this doesn't feel like the finished article, but a taster of things to come. In the sound, in the silence, there is something alive. If only three people understand, that may be enough. I'm not sure I understand yet. There's time though. There should be time. They're not quite Prolapse or the Jazz Butcher yet, and they're definitely not Felt or the Fall, but they've got time and a good name. It might be a psychological portrait of Britain's car parks, it might not be. It probably isn't, it doesn't matter. It's all open.
Reviewed by: Paul Scott
Reviewed on: 2007-09-19