Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Young Prisms' "Friends for Now": Music Review

This San Francisco band recalls a calmer assault, similar to The Aislers Set of a decade ago from that city, but with muffled male (rather than an alluring female) vocals buried in the steady waves of noisy pop. Like The Jesus and Mary Chain, Young Prisms combine a love for late-‘60s wall-of-sound Southern California melody from the slightly psychedelic detour into a head full of sand and with a determination to cover up that sunny vibe with lots of guitar, drums, keyboards, and distortion. The results may make this group’s album louder than that by another of their municipal peers, Film School [see my two reviews on them in the previous two blog entries], but again the resemblance to early-‘90s shoegazing establishes yet another familiar connection.

Familiarity dominates this album. It succeeds to set a mood of a rather altered state of mind, but the tunes resemble one another more often then not. They do not compel the listener to repeat enough of them to search for deeper meaning, or hidden delights. Whatever lyrics may surface are yelps and sighs, vocal harmonies and exclamatory snips. While this deepens the ambiance of their delivery of textured indie-rock that hearkens back to their salty forebears down the California coast nearly fifty years ago, it also leaves the songs on this album remarkably consistent, and sometimes, sadly, rather inert.

For variety, they may speed up the rhythm and add distortion, but this seems sometimes as if the same song is played faster. The effect does not dazzle the listener, but it may move the audience to jiggle and bop. Most of the tunes elicit a languorous feeling instead, and this record would fit a lazy, foggy morning or a woozy, tipsy night.

“Friends for Now” will please those who seek a blast of fuzz to clear out their psychic miasma. The pedals and boxes are used on and off on this record, however, as many songs prefer to progress at a steadier rate. While appearing at noise-pop festivals, Young Prisms appear on these recordings to keep the volume lower. This creates more consistency, but the record makes you take notice when the sound levels alter.

Shoegazing and neo-psychedelia share a passion for layers. Guitars float and distend. Keyboards waft and shimmer. Drums echo and flange. Voices whir and whisper. Young Prisms have this technique down. Where future releases from this young collective could progress is if they mix their apparent influences with their own impressive stamp upon a genre that, as with No Age and Darker My Love from Los Angeles, indicates a way to mingle the legacy of the late ‘60s with the early ‘90s but that does not stop at an respectable repetition of a blend content to pile on more guitars, more layers, more tremolo.

More heft may be needed. Many neo-psychedelic bands appear to start off heavy and get lighter by the third album. The Black Angels and Darker My Love have shown this in their current releases, which while respectable are not as impressive as their previous, more dirge-like, far more intense music. Young Prisms, by emphasizing their penchant for swirling production, may avoid the direction of their higher-profile peers in exploring the possibilities of expanding the vocal range, as the potential on this debut full-length show a band that deserves more time to fill in their vision of what they want to be on record.

On stage? I bet they blast out these tunes. I look forward to a second album that does the same. (Reviewed at PopMatters 1-19-11)

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