Who’s Your New Professor
hen we were young and impressionable, McCartney solo records sounded like crap. Everyone wondered what the hell happened after the Beatles broke up. Did he just go soft and pack it in, writing one song every five albums/years? What was it that made Lennon so much more interesting, avant-garde, rocking—fuck it, so much better? Then, years later, it hit us (Red Rose Speedway for me): McCartney was just as good, if not better! Easily more interesting, possibly more avant-garde, and definitely not more rocking! (These are all compliments.) Same goes for Archer Prewitt and Sam Prekop. Sure, Prewitt gets album of the week honors now. But you’ll see what yields subtle rewards years down the road.
Just listen to Prekop’s self-titled “solo” record from 1999. It sounds exactly like McCartney’s MO: a paring down, more organic sound that’s at odds with his older, more renowned band. A superstar group of collaborators (Jim O’Rourke, Prewitt, John McEntire, Rob Mazurek, and more of Chicago’s leading lights) to help him out. And to top it all off, it’s suitably overshadowed by Prewitt’s own Three.
Unlike McCartney’s solo music, though, each song here is immediately pleasant to listen to. You can grab on to album opener “Something” and its bubbling synth and lolling guitar line and stay on for the nearly forty-minute ride without needing to get off early. Unfortunately for most, it’s good in that Chicago post-rock kind of way (it’s totally ignorable, if you don’t have the time or inclination to bother). Like most hip rock critics from 1994, I’m here to tell you that Chicago post-rock is worth said time and inclination.
There are reasons aside from the party line “bossanova made by white guys is inherently genius” one. Take Prekop’s breathy and hushed voice. Here it’s a bit fleshed out, loud and clear, unafraid of its strength. Or take the varied instrumental backings: once again we’ve got Mazurek on cornet, Josh Abrams on the all-important electric bass, and the unbeatable Chad Taylor on drums (check his work on “Magic Step”). It’s an unbeatable combo that frequently goes from studied fury to tense to smooth and laid-back in the course of only three songs (“Magic Step” to “Two Dedications” for those playing at home).
As with any Paul McCartney album, you know exactly what to expect from the new Sam Prekop. And, similarly, it’s easy to ignore it the first few times around. But when push comes to shove, it’s the mannered Prekop that I find myself coming back to. His brand of subtlety yields far greater rewards and make for a surfeit of future discoveries upon repeated listens. There’s something to be said for consistency after all.
Reviewed by: Sarah Kahrl
Reviewed on: 2005-04-07