Talk about building anticipation. Jared Louche’s new project Prude – and this album – has been coming for a long, long time. How long? Well, darkroom was on a Glitch Mode compilation back in 2008, and that track appears here. Ok, so the project seemed to have been on hiatus for a while, until last year, anyway, when a handful of tracks started to appear online that suggested there was to this project than first met the eye.
Of course, in the years following the initial release of darkroom, Jared’s previous band Chemlab were finally ended once and for all, and it is perhaps important to put any preconceptions aside when listening to Prude. Chemlab were one of the bands that came to be part of the “Cold Wave” or “Machine Rock” movement in the US in the nineties, meshing together electronics, samples, and rock’n’roll – in other words a rather different sound to many “industrial” bands of the time. One thing that hasn’t especially changed, mind, are the lyrical themes.
No songs about technological advances, robots, machines, etc. Oh no, like Chemlab, Prude is very much based upon human themes. Specifically thoughts, desires, and sex in the main, and there is a kinda fin de siÃ¨cle feel to the abandon suggested in the lyrics and delivery, as Jared throws himself headlong into the world that he describes – something that was rammed home seeing him and Marc providing the first live taste of Prude in London last month, where in two thirty-minute blasts, we were dragged into his world and made to wallow in it.
The album doesn’t half start off on an odd footing, though. It’s almost as if Jared has re-emerged, blinking into wider a musical world he no longer recognises, as he sneers as the media (and probably people like me, too) terms for musical genres nowadays in PLUSism nowadays, before he takes that idea and swerves into a stream-of-conciousness ramble into sexual terms, festishes and fuck-knows-what else, as the musical accompaniment runs out steam, finds new ideas and then runs out of them time and again, before locking into a cool groove that seems wasted at the end.
But no matter, as great eraser (in the sky) blows it away as it sweeps through. A massive, glam-rock-industrial-meltdown with curious lyrical themes and a chorus you could detect from distant satellites, it is by far the best song by the band so far, and putting it upfront is certainly a good way of hooking listeners in. Interestingly, actually, the songs released prior to the album release are all stacked up together on the first half of the album, so pioneering track darkroom – barely changed from the original release, aside from perhaps a spit’n’polish to bring it up to scratch – follows on, a rocking charge of a song that is preoccupied with getting it’s kicks wherever it can, as long as things are secluded enough to not be seen. plague star (black light burning) is another that we first heard some months ago, and once again familiarity does not dim the enjoyment of the song. This one is a bit darker, a bit grimier, and has some marvellous drum programming that gives the song a heck of a snarl (as does yet another killer chorus).
The first let-up on the throttle comes with cigarette burn heart, the last of the songs I was already familiar with. While it initially shapes up like it is going to be another glammy stomper, it instead goes the other way with an acoustic-led, mellowed-out chorus and a feel of deep regret. airlock takes us straight back to the seventies, a drowsy, proggy groove of a track that one could easily see guitarist Marc throwing shapes during the solos on stage.
I’m still not totally sold on brief history of fire. It feels somewhat thin, with just drums, buzzing guitars and vocals, and precious little dynamic range. Aiming for some kind of punk energy, I’m presuming, judging on the tempo and relative brevity, for me it doesn’t quite work and ends up a bit of a disappointment. A little surprisingly, scatterbrain is a second shot at the idea, and it works so much better. Multitracked vocals in the chorus give a quasi-gospel effect, and the squalling, choppy guitars make it a dense, fascinating and memorable song.
From the title, it should come as no surprise that knife on mars has a distinct Bowie feel to it, but there is no space travel here, at least not physically. A downbeat, introspective song, that touches on the lives of various unfortunate people lost to London in various ways, difficult to tell if they are real or imagined people, but the song manages to retain a sense of elegance and gravitas that means the sad end for a number of the characters mentioned is quite affecting. And as time runs out for them, the song is underpinned by the ticking of a clock that is simply reminding us that life goes on regardless.
That feeling of sadness is not something that lasts, as Kings of the Republic of Nowhere is a mini epic. An anthemic track that deserves huge crowds to sing the chorus back to the band – needless to say this has already been part of the band’s live sets and hopefully will remain so – again with a classic rock feel that certainly adds a sense of style and sets the band apart. Jared’s cryptic lyrics, twisted through all kinds of metaphors, add to the fun as well, with this listener not for the first time trying to work out what on earth he is on about.
For the closing song – with another great punning title – sniper (at the gates of dawn), it has a guitar riff that is naggingly familiar (if anyone can put me out of my misery to suggest what it sounds like, I’d love to hear from them), that signs off the album on a surprisingly groovy, feel-good note – particularly after the darkness that permeates the second half of the album like a sea mist.
Indeed, When I saw them at Electrowerkz (opening the Sunday night bill at S.O.S. after the collapse of AltFest in mid-August), I overheard another punter describing PRUDE to their friend who had turned up later as “the Velvet Underground if they’d discovered industrial”, and to a point, that’s not far off – but there is much more to the sound than just labelling them with the sound of other bands. This is a fascinating meeting of minds – taking in the curious, myriad ideas and lyrical visions of Jared Louche, the guitar pyrotechnics of Marc Plastic, and the electronic trickery of Matt Fanale and Phil DiSiena, not to mention the serious production chops of Howie Beno, whose work has finished off the sound of this album brilliantly. This transatlantic team – Jared and Marc in Europe, the remainder in the US – is I guess part of the reason for the lengthy gestation of the album, but after all this time, the wait has certainly been worth it. This is a stylish, smart album with one eye looking back to the rock of the past, while the other looks forward to provide a futuristic, electronic edge. Holding it all together is Jared’s crazed delivery, with otherworldly vocals and lyrics, and a sense that not all is too serious, and particularly normal, either. Knowing his and his bandmates’ musical pasts, this is entirely as it should be.