Eleventh Dream Day - Prairie School Freakout
Why Eleventh Dream Day (EDD) never became massive is one of the great mysteries of our time; the shooting of JFK is childs’ play in comparison (it was Lee Harvey Oswald, all right?). No matter, here for your contemplation, is a wonderful package released to celebrate the 15th anniversary of it's original release is EDD's debut album, Prairie School Freakout, together with the follow up EP, Wayne.
The first thing that strikes you when you first listen to PSF is just how wonderfully loose yet vital the whole thing sounds; its a ragged mix of emotional rock 'n' blues that just oozes atmosphere and class and swaggers along like a dog with two cocks. Opener, Watching The Candles Burn is just a taste of what's to come; it's all jagged guitars, a stuttering bass line that builds anticipation, a drum roll and suddenly, bang, your foots tapping along with an instantly addictive, rambling rock song that'll send shivers down your spine the first time you hear it. Rick Rizzo vocal style is loose, his delivery desperate and yearning yet capable of tenderness. On Coercion, he's all Jagger-esque exaggerated delivery, guttural and grasping, but on Sweet Smell, his harmony with Janet Beverage Bean is quite haunting and beautiful, yet still carries that sense of danger and excitement that's essential to rock.
The music itself sounds quite primordial and raw, nothing is overproduced and the guitars grate and dual with each other like squabbling siblings. Even if you hate guitar solos, Baird Figi's slide on Driving Song and tarantula will stop you in your tracks and if you are not moved by his slow, deliberate and utterly controlled solo work then you have no soul; there's nothing technically brilliant about them, but the emotion behind them, squeezed into every drawn out and wailing note will give you goosebumps. At times, it's reminiscent of Lou Reed's sonic weavings from the New York or Songs For Drella albums. It's that fucking good. Listen to Through My Mouth for proof. Last song on the album proper, Tenth Leaving Train, is a meandering, eleven-minute long squealing guitar orgy that never once grates nor outstays its welcome. Think of The Rolling Stones circa Sticky Fingers, or The Velvet Undergrounds' more rock based output, and you have some idea of the potential buried in this debut. They do blues, psychedelic and folk all wrapped up in the attitude of punk and make it sound like the easiest and most natural thing in the world.
The lyrics are pure poetry. They roll along with the music and sound almost organic. Try saying "Everyday that goes by/And I don't know why/But I feel like I'm ten years older/My bones get brittle/like sticks to the fire/They snap and they pop and they smolder" out loud to get some sense of the precision, alliteration and onomatopoeia that goes on throughout the album. Some songs are sad, some funny, some tell stories but all have some point to them and there's not a single track here that could be called filler.
Also included here is the EP Wayne in the form of two extra tracks, which includes two songs, Southern Pacific and Go. Of the two, Go is the most interesting, as it ends the whole package with something of a departure from the album, featuring multi-layered power chords and has something of an epic feel.
As if that wasn't enough, Prairie School Freakout also comes with a bonus CD-Rom which includes some nice bonus live footage. It's not the best quality picture wise nor sound wise, but it's interesting and gives a hint as to just how good the band were live and it also has a nice, fold-out lyric sheet.
Prairie School Freakout is something of an essential purchase. It's one of the best rock albums of recent years and although fifteen years old, it sounds timeless and could have been recorded yesterday or at any point in the last thirty years. As stated before The Rolling Stones, circa Sticky Fingers is the most obvious reference point, but it's not derivative and twists its influences into something unique and powerful. Perhaps the best way to end is with the words of Bryan Coley, who sums them up with a simple, "Fuck, they were good."