Friday, March 24, 2006

Prairie School Freakout (Haahnster Loves The '80s Vol. 2)

My goodness, I love listening to amazing electric guitar sound. Even better, I love turning other people on to bands with amazing electric guitar sound. So, here's wishing nothing but the absolute best for Thrill Jockey records [Box 08038 / Chicago, IL 60608 -]. If it weren't for their 2003 CD re-issue of this 1988 classic, your chances of finding it at all would be next to nil. It was originally issued on vinyl only by a tiny Los Angeles label, Amoeba Records. How tiny was Amoeba? When Eleventh Dream Day released their debut, 6-song, self-titled EP in 1987, it was Amoeba release A002. When E.D.D. released their follow-up, full-length LP, PRAIRIE SCHOOL FREAKOUT several months later in 1988, it was Amoeba relase A003!!!

The liner notes say it all: "This piece of vinyl is our second record. It was recorded on a hot pollution alert day during July in Louisville, Kentucky, and was made at a place called Artist Recording Service. We recorded 15 songs between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., half of the time spent trying to fix the wild buzz coming out of Rick's amp. We finally gave up and decided to make amp buzz the theme of the record..."

The E.D.D. line-up was
Rick Rizzo - lead vocals, guitar
Baird Figi - guitar
Janet Beveridge Bean - drums, vocals
Doug McCombs - bass

Rumor has it that Rick Rizzo taught himself to play guitar with the songbook for Neil Young's ZUMA album. I'm not making that up. I've actually read it somewhere. It certainly makes sense to me. PRAIRIE SCHOOL FREAKOUT comes as highly recommended an album as I can imagine. It comes as close as possible to capturing this line-up's live sound. And, ohmigod, did they ever rock!!!

Side A

  1. Watching Candles Burn (Figi) - 4:01
  2. Sweet Smell (Bean) - 4:37
  3. Coercion (Bean) - 3:47
  4. Driving Song (Figi) - 4:09
  5. Tarantula (Rizzo) - 5:37

Side B

  1. Among The Pines (Rizzo) - 6:24
  2. Through My Mouth (McCombs) - 4:57
  3. Beach Miner (Music: Bean, Lyrics: Rizzo) - 3:43
  4. Death Of Albert C. Sampson (Bean) - 4:45
  5. Life On A String (Rizzo) - 5:05

"Watching Candles Burn" is one of the all-time greatest dual-lead-guitar attack songs in recorded history, and that's absolutely NOT an overstatement! And so it goes, each song incredibly remarkable in its own right. "Beach Miner" is probably the most overtly, "sounds-like-Neil" song, but his influence pervades the LP. To say Neil & Crazy Horse influenced E.D.D. is obvious. However, this isn't just some knock-off, tribute band. These guys (and gal) were writing their own, very vital material. Janet's pounding drum style, and Doug's stalwart bass playing provide such an anchor that Rick & Baird were both free to wail away on their guitars, often soloing simultaneously. Eleventh Dream Day's PRAIRIE SCHOOL FREAKOUT truly must be heard to be believed. And, even then, the question of how Atlantic could ever have missed with these guys will haunt you.

Cool lyrical snippets:

from Watching Candles Burn: “If looks could kill/Here’s looking at you”
from Sweet Smell: “Her mind was clear/As she reached for a rope/Ambulance Blues filled the room/Confusion everywhere, but still the flowers bloomed”
from Coercion: “His face, white, so placid/Her mind was a cold casket”
from Among The Pines: “His head felt like a loaf of bread/With the crust peeled off/Sandwiched between the shower stall/And purgatory”
from Tarantula: “In the snow covered pure/There fell two drops of blood/That burned through the ground/And pooled into one”
from Through My Mouth: “Every day that goes by/And I don’t know why/But I feel like I’m ten years older”
from Beach Miner: “Sure I’m sad/I ought to be sad/Is there any good reason/Why I shouldn’t be sad?”
from Death Of Albert C. Sampson: “So he bought some beer/And then he killed the grocery man”
And, my personal favorite, from Life On A String: “When you love without reciprocity/It will slam like a door back in your face”

The CD re-issue also incudes the 3 songs from their 3rd release, a 12" single WAYNE (1989), Amoeba release A006:

Side A
1. Go (Words: Rizzo, Music: Bean) – 4:50
Side B
1. Southern Pacific (Neil Young) – 5:04
2. Tenth Leaving Train (Rizzo) – 11:19

These songs are presented in reverse order ("Go" last) as tracks 11, 12 & 13 on the CD. More amazing music, in addition to the PRAIRIE SCHOOL FREAKOUT songs. If you like hard-rockin', Neil/CH-influenced music, then this CD is an absolute MUST HAVE in your music collection. End of story. (And, thanks again to Thrill Jockey for making it possible for the previously uninitiated to get involved.)

PS - Someday, I'll tell the story of the reunion show to celebrate the CD re-issue. It was in Chicago at the "Double Door" in November (?) 2003. My friend and I stood dead center in front of the stage, literally INCHES from the band...what an ultimate rock experience!


Blogger Thrasher said...

I'll have to check'em out. Thanks hh!

5:02 PM, March 24, 2006  
Blogger haahnster said...

You will NOT be disappointed. I guarantee it!

8:55 PM, March 24, 2006  

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