Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #99

[All throughout the month of November, all NW4NW entries are based on requests made by you, dear readers. Because of the amount of requests received, there will often be more than one entry per week during this month - I recommend signing up for email alerts on the left-hand side of the screen so that you don't miss any of the fun! I cannot take anymore requests for this month, but please always feel free to suggest bands you might like to see featured in future NW4NW posts. You may do so either in the comments section of this post, on Twitter, or on the Facebook Fanpage.]

I always enjoy discovering bands I've never heard before - especially when they turn out to be older groups that somehow flew under my radar.  Out of the many requests I received this month, two or three such obscure names popped up, but they were bands that I had at least known of, even if I had never actually heard their music.  My friend Tom Quinn wins the prize this year, though, for completely stumping me by requesting The Prefab Messiahs

Accepting the challenge, I spent an evening surfing the Internets for information and/or samples, and located two Prefab Messiahs tracks being made available at WFMU's utterly indispensable Free Music Archive (bookmark it now - you'll spend hours there!).  Knowing Tom's predilection for Lo-Fi garage bands (check his own work with The Mud Pie Sun), I was not at all surprised at the sounds I heard; their pedigree, however, caused me to raise an eyebrow.

Their legend, from the liner notes of their lone release, 1998's Devolver, goes like this:
"In the first half of the 1980s, in the post-industrial landmine known as Worcester, Massachusetts (a/k/a/ Wormtown) -- a city whose two industrial complexes made it number one on the Soviet Union's hit list in case of war -- three wise men, accompanied by an equally strange entourage of followers and inventors, ignored all the rules of how to become successful musicians and created a unique legacy of their own, and with it, the era of "Peace, Love and Alienation." 

The journey began at Clark University, where two devotees of Dada terrorism, Xeth "Xerox" Feinberg and "Egg" Al Nidlepostered its campus with posters announcing "talentless guitarist and drummer seeking bassist and lead guitarist to form post-new wave pop pseudo-psychedelic band." It drew the attention of Kris "Trip" Thompson, a new member of the church of all things psychedelic and guitarist-without-a working guitar Mike "Doc" Michaud. They began practicing at the local community radio station, using only pizza boxes for a drum kit, and were not so politely asked to leave by half the station. The other half demanded they play on the air, and soon afterwards, the Prefab Messiahs were on the airwaves asking the question, "Whatever happened to Cousin Artie? / He blew his mind out at a '60s party...," and intended or not (thanks to the fact the local underground club's doorman was indeed a popular scenester named Artie, and still scarred from having been forced to attend Woodstock), the residents of Wormtown took it as a celebration of one of their own. 

With its Betty Crocker-like instant success, and fame (or at least a good used clothing store) just around the corner, "Egg" Al decided to leave the performing line-up and like Gepetto and Malcolm McClaren, pull strings from behind the scenes (he attempted to bring Ronald McDonald into its lineup - but alas, failed by a single screw of pulling off the artistic coup of the century). He was replaced by Ringo, a Casio instrument whose existence irritated serious music fans, but delighted music lovers. 

In the spring of '82 the group entered the "Spring Rock Showcase" at the city's largest nightclub [Sanctuary]. Heavily promoted by the region's biggest radio station [WAAF], it attracted a large hard rock crowd, most of who were beyond stunned to see the Prefabs take the stage with Ringo - but not as horrified as when they learned the group had won its preliminary round enroute to the semi-finals.

The Prefabs' belief in their music earned the respect of Nebulas drummer Tony Serrato, who volunteered to replace Ringo. They took their prize and recorded "The 16th Track" and "Desperately Happy", and with a real drummer, rapidly became one of the city's best live acts. 

Time constraints eventually forced Serrato to leave the band, and he was replaced by Billy Brahm, from Bobb Trimble's equally mythical Crippled Dog Band."
And that, folks, is the entirety of the available information about the band online.  This same story is repeated, verbatim, on just about every site that mentions them; the few pages that do not reproduce these liner notes only paraphrase them.  Devolver, then, purported to be the long-awaited release, finally, of songs recorded a decade and a half before; it is now out of print itself, though it can be had on Amazon if you're willing to pony up the dough.

Now, to add to the legend: This year, there appeared online a free-to-download album by a mysterious group called The Huh?, The Hypothetical Return Of The Prefab Messiahs, described as "an album of original music inspired by the legendary career of The Prefab Messiahs." Finding The Huh?'s MySpace page, one will discover the name of Prefab Messiah Xeth "Xerox" Feinberg as the identity behind this creation. 

It all seems to lead to more questions than answers, but the music is fantastic pseudo-psychedelic acid-garage rock.  I won't try to tell you more - I've shared all I now know.  You take it from here, by checking out two video clips: the first, for "Desperately Happy," is a perfect duplication of the late-60s/early-70s cartoon rock band shows I grew up on (think The Archies, Josie & the Pussycats, The Banana Splits...), the second, for the decidedly trippier "The 16th Track," boasts a 1983 vintage.  Thank you, Tom, for the request and for opening my ears to something, old...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks B. Now I know something about this band. If you've gotten this far you might like their Casiotone driven version of the 13th Floor Elevators' "Your Gonna Miss Me."