Thursday, November 18, 2010

Young Prisms - Friends for Now review

I have to admit that what initially intrigued me about this record from San Franciscan quintet, Young Prisms, was the not-so-safe-for-work album art.  Once I got past my prepubescent hang up of ogling what surely is a contender for the perfect alternative breasts, I decided to give the pretty translucent purple record a spin.  On their MySpace page, Young Prisms claim that their sound is "shoegaze", a subgenre of music that originated in the U.K. in the late eighties.  The name comes from the sight spectators saw when they went to see these bands live, since their music incorporated so many effects pedals, the band members were constantly looking at their feet.  I have never seen Young Prisms live, but I can imagine how the shoegazing label applies.

Young Prisms use the two guitar approach commonly found in shoegaze music, neither one assuming a "lead", rather both guitars play heavily distorted riffs over one another to create an amorphous, reverberating melody that echoes throughout, and ultimately drives, the entire song.  The vocals are washed out and subdued, being used by the band as another instrument, rather than to convey any real meaning with the lyrics.  The heavy handed wails of the guitars and the striking dissonance that is achieved in the songs without sacrificing melody is both impressive and welcome, as the record sounds cohesive without compromising the illusion of chaos.

The album opens with "Friends for Now", a borderline instrumental song that does little to introduce the band or the album, as the second track, "If You Want To", could have just as easily opened the album and probably would have done so more effectively.  The songs that favor melody over the sometimes oppressive, neo-psychedelic monotony present on some tracks are the obvious standouts on the album, most notably the song "Sugar".  As the album progresses, you'll find that you should have gotten stoned or perhaps really drunk before you put it on, as you'll find it easier to get lost in the layers and layers of distortion and feedback.

The constant lo-fi drone of the guitars and the rather mediocre drumming start to wear a little thin by the end of the record, and with the exception of one or two tracks, the average listener will probably find it hard to discern between the ten tracks present on the album.  Friends for Now is a record that should be played loud, or ideally, heard live if you want to do it any justice.  So, if you're a fan of the shoegaze genre and you are in the market for a new pair, try Young Prisms on for size.  Just be aware that one size doesn't always fit all.

Young Prisms - Weekends and Treehouses
Young Prisms - Sugar

Friends for Now by Young Prisms is out January 18th...preorder here.

Alternatively, consult their MySpace page to check out upcoming gigs, if you're lucky enough to catch them live you can pick up an advance copy of the album on vinyl.

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