Jesters go for giggles, but pity ensues
The Prefab Messiahs are back again but aren’t quite messianic this album around if ever they were. In their latest LP, Music for Concerned Citizens, the band that has historically carried a genre-blurring sound between post-punk and psychedelic garage pop goes satirical and topical, jesting on the clichés that the world has spawned in recent years throughout all its calamity.
Its satire begins in its title. It functions as a catch-all distillation of the music contained within it, and all the music contained in it is just as detached as the title. “Pandemic Pam” pokes fun at what everyone’s tired of hearing about through the eyes of a character they create. But it doesn’t stop there. It uses other controversial subject matter for an additional layer of discomfort. “Pandemic Pam,” because her name rhymes so wonderfully with man, would like to turn into one. Reeking of pandemic downplay and transphobia, it just comes off as crass provocation, aware of being too soon in its delivery, just like most of its other tracks.
“21st Century Failure” mocks the pressures of daily life as being too overblown and exaggerated (with equally overblown and exaggerated instrumentation to the point where it’s unknown whether they really are mocking themselves or if one should simply feel sorry for them). People used to be so much tougher, so much more resilient to the increasingly putrid world. Weaklings, all of them, says they. Nowadays, according to the song, it’s normal for people to “get offended at a child’s t-shirt.” The outsized machismo these dudes possess full-on atomizes all wusses in a 70-yard radius.
“Bubble” may refer either to isolative tendencies or the self-obsession caused by social media. “Mellotron” opens with a derivatively dumb guitar riff that’s a little too heavy for the atmosphere, like someone who’s a little too ironic. As a bonus to the track, it’s lyrically just as stupid. Who can really write something like, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink/ you can lead a man to knowledge but you can’t make him think” and approve it in the revision phase. Very Boomer, very trite–much like the rest of the album.
Music for Concerned Citizens seems like a joke just as much as it doesn’t. It mostly sounds caricatured. Like some snotty, kid-friendly garage band found on a cartoon, religiously listened to by the delinquent character who wears studs and skulls and zits. Or maybe a band that would appeal to prepubescent knuckle-suckers who just found a volition to defy their parents. At any rate, The Prefab Messiahs clearly want to situate themselves in a semantic space that blurs the bounds between self-mockery, self-aware suckery and plain mockery. It seems they’re just trying to get a rise out of people as they cosplay hackneyed classic rock as a bandaged band.