Friday, 26 June 2015

Never Too Late | Prolapse review extra

I'm in the bar of the Hope & Ruin, Brighton with writer Lucy Cage and Andrea Feldman, mamma of the 90s fanzine Warped Reality. Andrea now lives back home in the States but she used to work for the brilliant independent label Too Pure (who first released P. J. Harvey and hosted the infamous Sausage Machine club, my local at the time). Her fanzine covered some class acts: Throwing Muses, Lida Husik and of course, Prolapse. Warped Reality loved Prolapse: released a split flexi disc: 

Also settled at our table is Mick Derrick, vocalist with Prolapse. It's been 16 years but I recognise him - a curious, sharp, easily humoured mind, down to earth manner, the Scottish accent.  Tour manager, Tony Fisher (normally with Art Trip And The Static Sound) is outside having a fag and the rest of the band are milling about. Also here, two of support act Slum Of Legs, grinning, ready (Maria, violinist and Kate, guitarist). I am here to do an interview and review for Louder Than War - thought I would make myself useful - but it's just all too lush to pay attention. It's too perfect: friends, smiles, pints, seaside air, the adorable TEDs (see last post) supporting Prolapse, one of my favourite live bands ever, and the chance to catch up with much talked-about Slum Of Legs

The story goes that Prolapse formed in the summer of 1991 under a table at Leicester Polytechnic's (Now DeMontfort University) Friday night disco, "With the aim of being the most depressing band ever". (Wiki) Well, that didn't happen. For all the organised chaos, looped groves and thrash guitar, Prolapse crafted some superb pop songs and earned a cult following for their live set, particularly for the nervous tension within songs, and the performances of Linda Steelyard and Mick Derrick. 

They released umpteen EPs and four albums, all reaching critical acclaim, and disbanded in 1999. They made pop songs an art (there is a story about the making of this video in the review below). 

In early 2015 the band announced a series of headline shows in addition to support slots with Mogwai. The first, at Manchester’s Roadhouse on 28th May, was performed 16 years to the day since their last. This show is hosted by independent promoter Tobi Blackman, a supporter is Mark E Smith. 

This review originally appeared in Louder Than War

THE words razorblades, slash, chaffing, headless and psychotic feature heavily tonight. We’re in for a good one.

It is very rare that you get to reference tonight’s headliners Prolapse (1991-1999) when describing a band but I have been using it all year when writing about the trio The Ethical Debating Society. There is something about the vocal clashes and narratives, between vocalists/guitarists Kris and Tegan, that begs for the comparisons, none more so than in “Razor Party”. The driving, hardcore drumbeat is the bass, on a promise, the guitars bring the scream in songs like “Cover Up” or “Kill You Last”.  It’s a riot of pop-punk: a cut and paste of politics, sarcasm, freedom, relationships. This gig coincides with the launch of the debut album “New Sense” and there’s a queue of people who came for the bands they know (Slum Of Legs and Prolapse) buying it from the merchandise stall.

Buzz, buzz, buzz, Slum Of Legs, buzz, buzz, buzz. This is their hometown and they have the hot support gig. They don’t write set lists, just announce the songs but in the excitement I seem to have wiped my notes and song titles on my phone. All that’s left is: squeeeeeee. It’s the musicality meets riot grrrl or queer-punk mentality that makes this special. There are six of them up there making merry and it’s a beautiful thing, but it’s the violin, keyboards and wierdy stylophone, the vocalist’s boldness and brilliance, that’s bringing the party atmosphere. Why has nobody thought to make a Huggy Bear meets The Levellers combo before?

It is not about the return of Prolapse, who had critical and radio success for nearly ten years with noisy pop songs like “Pull thru’ Barker”, part of tonight’s encore, and the let-it-all-out ones like “Headless In A Beat Motel”, (even Louder Than War’s John Robb worked on two of the four albums). It’s a celebration, which started because Mogwai wondered if they’d like to support them in the summer, in the UK. This band of seven are now scattered all over Europe so it’s also rare for them to be able to be in the same place, at the same time.

Tonight though, is the last headline slot in a small venue, probably ever and in vocalist Scottish Mick’s own words, they’re getting the hang of it again now – less sweat and more joy. Opener “Psychotic Now” is a perfect tease, coming out of one bass line, guitars building into what we know: driving rhythms, rock and roll melodies and Lindy Steelyard and Mick Derrick, both at odds with their vocals, yet together in the way of contrapuntal rhythms. (Love this band forever, who else makes you think of Bach as a reference point?) It’s also one for the Prolapse Massive, since “Psychotic Now” came as a split flexi disc with fanzine Warped Reality. In fact WR mamma, Andrea Feldman, has travelled from her hometown of Providence in the States for the tour and is standing right next to me at this very moment, although you never actually stand still at a Prolapse gig, it’s impossible not to catch the nervous tension. Linda rubs her hands together repeatedly, rocks back and forth, Mick paces and pokes, messes dangerously with the mike, stretching it’s wires, kicking about in a puddle of beer. The performance fascinates and entertains.

The pop songs are a pleasure, “Killing The Bland”, “Doorstep Rhythmic Bloc” and “TCR”. Mick talks about that stage of Prolapse and being in New York to shoot the video for “TCR”, clearing the streets of Manhattan, and no, he did not fall in love with his make up artist. The other songs tonight (“Flex”, “Slash”, “Government Of Spain”, “Visa For Violet and Van”) are like the demons inside you know you need to make friends with - being as the narrative and soundtrack are an antennae to the human condition, with piercing observation and affection – and the loop and groove of three guitars and bass, the relentless hardcore attitude to funky drumming, drags you into its tow.

Like good theatre, Prolapse don’t leave the crowd needing to be in their gang, or desperately wishing this was a comeback, just renewed enthusiasm and the strength required for waving our freak flags high.
Ngaire Ruth


pinkpressthreat said...

Great piece - thanks. I was at Dalston Vic on May 29th - main thing I can say about that night, apart from how glad I was that I brought that spare t-shirt, is that it was truly an emotional experience for me. Seeing them a month later in my home town at The Hope (better air-con thank fuck) - even more so. I just couldn't stop beaming all night. Thanks Tobi and all concerned. First time for me seeing Slum Of Legs, who were great, and I guess I'll have to wait 'til next time for The Ethical Debating Society. I feel a little sad now this tour's over - my girlfriend, who was unfamiliar with Prolapse until we met a couple of years ago, is a little irritated. She wants more! Well, always those brilliant albums/singles/eps to listen to and lots of new live footage for her (and me) to watch.
David :D

ngaireruth said...

One more for the Prolapse Massive! I often wonder if they had a more likeable name would they have had greater chart success? Every single was an A Lister and songs back then did have personality.

pinkpressthreat said...

Definitely. Everything I love in a band.
Weird thing about that name is that it's such a great *sounding* word - I kind of like to think about it having an alternative meaning...if you know what I, er, mean..
One more would be great - I'm sure they've had dozens of offers - what will be will be I s'pose ;-)