Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Prolapse, 'TCR'

Been meaning to post something about Prolapse for a while. Their Wikipedia biog tells the story of these Leicester-based chancers better than I ever could, so I guess my only remaining option is to be subjective. For me, they somehow distil everything that's seductive about 1990s independent music, and also embody everything that the genre has been lambasted for since the Chinese walls of stardom were breached in favour of guitar bands. As is to be expected, the male members of the band wear out-of-date, too-tight football tops bearing the insignia of obscure European sides rather than the smart-scruffy attire favoured in the wake of The Strokes and Pete Doherty. Somehow, this gesture seems to subvert the lad culture which prevailed at the time (think Euro '96, Teddy Sheringham, Chris Evans) whilst not being dismissing the average man in the street as an uncultured lout: it's a simultaneous repudiation of, and identification with, a very particular strand of maleness. Musically, Prolapse eschewed lofty ambitions towards paradigm shifting in favour of thudding bass riffs, metronomic drumming, abrasive Keith Levine-style guitars and rapidly interchanging boy-girl vocals. Their debts are obvious: Can, Neu, Joy Division, Stereolab, Spacemen 3, PiL and My Bloody Valentine. From that jumble they contrive a sound of their own which is never less than breakneck. For all of their smart atonal reference points, their songs are built around nagging hooks which defy the listener to nod along.

I think the real beauty of this band, though, is connected to nostalgia. Although their lyrics are largely oblique, as should be expected of all good indie bands, one detects a ring of student politics in the mix. There's an air of cheap cornflakes and student grants, old polytechnics and the Poll Tax Riots about Prolapse, a je ne sais quois that you'd be hard-pressed to find on any university campus nowadays. This is indie pre- internet saturation, when small bands did not become massive overnight on the back of MySpace. Having grown up in North Yorkshire with this perception- struggling idealists playing in depopulated, sticky-floored cellars- of the independent music scene, it was a huge surprise to me to finally play gigs in London after years of wanting to and finding that the queues for the toilet cubicles were longer than those at the bar or merch stands. Clubs like White Heat and even the Guided Missile night at the Buffalo Bar seem to be used by A&R men as staging-grounds for the next breakthrough act rather than ambitions in themselves. While the bands play, shady-looking management types in Stone Island jackets pick at their nostrils, or start aggro with the organisers. It all feels tawdry and auto-consuming.

Anyway, here is Prolapse's 'TCR', from a time before it all got that bad...

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