Friday, 24 July 2009

'TFI Feisty' NME, 6 September 1997

Prolapse live at Edinburgh, Cas Rock Café by Ben Willmott

The name, of course, does not inspire confidence. The image is not a pretty one; at best it suggest Concorde-speed metal executed by brickies from Walsall, at worst a brand of 'challenging' post-rock to chisel A-roads in your forehead.

And, although our seemingly ever-multiplying friends (up to seven members and showing no sign of slowing) from Leicester have never dealt in anything other than pure, if severely skewed, pop, their most unsettling of tags always was eminently appropriate. Because Prolapse used to be a mess. A splendidly compelling street scrap, fuelled by animosity and the ever-present threat of inter-band physical violence, but a mess all the same.

But something strange has happened to their wilfully indie bedsit since the major label cleaners descended for a serious scrub earlier this year. For starters, they've learnt to play their instruments without sounding like the Grange Hill school band being conducted by Mark E Smith. Smart move.

Secondly, they've relaxed to the point where actually performing has become a distinct priority - as opposed to simply demolishing the rider, giving each other death stares and indulging in unseemly scuffles. Wonders never cease.

A few moments into tonight's opener, 'Visa', its evident their once wiry mesh of mangled power pop and Krautrock as molested by the Happy Mondays has been helping itself to steroids of late. Even without Julian Cope's right-hand man, Donald Ross Skinner, dispensing the kind of high-frequency Mooging that's been syringing the ears of Beck's audiences recently, they sound way bigger, sharper and ultimately more mischievously evil than ever.

Don't get us wrong, the playground squabbles and tantrums are still all present and correct - without them the band would be rendered all but impotent. A baby doll is produced from nowhere, promptly dismembered by tiny vocalist Linda Steelyard and then slung with ferocious force at the face of her lanky, oafish counterpart, Scotch Mick. Between verses of 'Day at Death' the pair mutter private obscenities to each other and kick the other's beers over, but tonight such acts feel like flashpoints for the whole band's collective raging instead of mere incidental distractions.

It's probably halfway through 'Killing the Bland' - imagine the Primitives on a diet of psychopathic drugs and razorblade milkshakes - that we realise precisely what damn fine pop stars they'd make. Visualise Linda, the 60s B-movie heroine with a meat cleaver in her handbag, systematically demolishing Chris Evans' ego on TFI Friday with a handful of well-chosen insults. Or Mick emptying his stomach behind a breakfast TV sofa.

A year ago, such a scenario would've seemed about as likely as Noel Gallagher having a drink with a Labour Prime Minister at Number 10. Or Chumbawamba shifting 100,000 singles and gatecrashing the Top Five. Stranger things have indeed happened - and often to bands displaying a fraction of Prolapse's bruising class.

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