So, Drew asked me to write about the new Prisoners album, Pass the Stone, & was even kind enough to send me a Mediafire link with a download of the album, which is a big change from him handing me a CD and asking me to burn 5 copies of it, which is why I actually have three different versions of this album on my computer, BUT ANYWAY, it’s actually pretty hard/weird for my to write about it for a lot of reasons, including, but not limited to:
- The inevitable conflict of interest one enters into when they write about a project that their partner is involved in. (I worry that I will be either too nice as to avoid hurting feelings or too critical to prove that I’ll say whatever I REALLY feel, even if my boyfriend is in the band.)
- The fact that I’m actually accustomed to writing complete and total gushing praise for indie pop and lo fi indie rock bands, and what Prisoners do is something pretty different.
- Also, thinking about writing about this album makes me feel like I’m really bad about writing about music.
So, that’s my “full disclosure” list. All that aside, there are a lot of things that I really, really like about this album & two of those things are the first two songs, “Fix Yer Head” and “Brain Drain.” In fact, I’d just as happily have accepted a 7” with just these two songs in place of an entire album (which is not to say that the album doesn’t have any other good songs, it’s really just that I like 7”s and have a relatively short attention span.) Honestly, it was an act of pretty good faith on Drew’s part to even ask me to share my thoughts on Pass the Stone since my previous nuanced commentary of Prisoners has included such jams at, “It’s so sad that you guys will never have a song as good as ‘Freewheel’ by Team Dresch.”
Anyway, I think that part of what makes this album so interesting to me is that, over the last few months, I was really able to hear it develop. (You know, because every time they had a new set of mixes Drew would A) make me listen to it in the car and B) put it on my computer and burn copies so that other people in the band could listen to it.) The fact that I was able to hear these songs in various stages of development and sequenced in multiple ways really lends something to the experience of listening to the final product. In fact, the experience of watching the band in general grow, writing new songs, working to tighten up their live shows, etc. has helped me to reframe my own feelings about them (initial feelings: Does a band really need three guitars? Really?, present day feelings: It is sort of hard to imagine this band playing a show with only two dudes playing the guitar.)
The aforementioned “Fix Yer Head” and “Brain Drain” are both fantastic (and will be familiar to anyone who has seen Prisoners play a show in recent months), but aside from these two, the album’s closing track, “Art Song,” is probably my favorite (which is really saying something considering how frequently I complain about not liking slow songs.) The album also includes live show staples, “Boom Cha Cha,” “Make You Cry,” & “Street Creep,” which are all all right songs (I know, I know, this is a really, really noncommittal statement — I think talking about these “middle of the album” songs is where I really, really struggle, partially because of the overload of having heard these songs so many times & partially because, for me, some of these songs just don’t “click.”)
Prisoners have garnered a lot of comparisons to The Replacements in Cleveland’s local music press — something that Drew has whined to me about at length because he “just [doesn’t] think [they] sound like The Replacements.” I think that The Replacements comparison is an easy (and, to a degree, lazy) one to make, based largely on the fact that they wear flannel, have sloppy live shows, & feature a lead singer with a sometimes raspy sounding voice. I think there’s also the fact that they’re more or less a straight up rock and roll band with some garage and country influences at a time when there aren’t many other young bands in Cleveland with a similar sound. I can see how comparing them to The Replacements might seem like a natural thing to do (especially when you hear the last 45 seconds of “Goner,” which has undeniably Westerbergian elements.) Regardless of Drew’s thoughts and feelings, I think that this comparison is one that’s going to follow them for a long time.
I’m not going to lie, albums are all well and good, but I think that Prisoners’ strength is really their live shows. They’re honestly just a fun band to go see. I know I’ve seen them upwards of ten times this year & it’s not just me — I see a lot of the same people coming out for show after show. In fact, they have a show tonight with Wooly Bullies and The Prohibitionists at The Boo Box (1834 W. 45th in Ohio City).
If you can’t make it out tonight, their album release show is December 30th at the Grog Shop with Cloud Nothings and Very Knees. Their new album will be available on cassette from Cylindrical Habitat Modules. (Their first album is still available on vinyl from Smog Veil.)