Prisonshake - Dirty Moons x xxxx
It finally happened, Prisonshake has completed their long-threatened double album, Dirty Moons. An underground rock Chinese Democracy, maybe, but with less drama and way less money. Guitarist Robert Griffin founded the Scat label in 1989 for Prisonshake, and to some extent it has continued to exist in hopes of releasing this album. These recordings, all but one done entirely in the analog domain between 1995 to 2007, encompass both realism and psychedelia, sometimes via tape manipulation and found sound. Performances range from the completely live (even vocals) to near Bob Ezrin levels of production, but all have an everybody-in-the-room recording at their core.
Right off the bat, one can’t help but notice the guitars here. This is a shameless rock and roll album, where guitar solos, passion, syncopation and fingertips are celebrated. The group are native speakers of rock language and have done it long enough to have their own dialect, both in terms of the individuals’ playing voices (yes, drums have a voice, too) and in terms of songwriting and arrangements. The group is also blessed with the sublime talents of principal vocalist and lyricist Doug Enkler, who has a rare knack for putting words to ambiguous human moments (when he isn’t being a smartass), and who is able to hit emotional chords without being confessional or lovesick.
But make no mistake, Dirty Moons aims to stimulate ALL chakras with its orgy of ripping guitars, beautiful losers and inbred songs, grown in the dark like mold when no one was watching. Conflict is always present in the songs, sometimes even between them; this is heard in the lyrics, between countermelodies, sections of songs, instruments, and beyond, forming the central organization of the album. Prisonshake’s somewhat ecumenical aesthetic, wherein punk rock and its more poorly-behaved descendents are as celebrated as some of the music they sought to destroy, ungenrefies the songs. This, along with the long gestation period, provides an especially large world of rock, where surprise can be had all the way up to the final minutes of the album.
If you translate the rhythm-melody-tonal color Venn diagram of music into the vast rock universe, the result is riff-melody-abstraction. Within the nexus of that trinity Prisonshake resides, where both the visceral and the sublime can get nasty with each other, where the composed and the improvised meet, a blending of craft and abandon, where seemingly disparate rock dialects are resolved into a polyglot tongue with a Cleveland accent. An odyssey of donk.
The last Prisonshake full-length, The Roaring Third, was issued at the end of 1993, and Dirty Moons' recordings date from 1995 to 2007, with some dead years in there. The idea of recording the album over multiple sessions in different locations and circumstances was integral to the conception of Dirty Moons, but a stretch of time this wide was not expected. It didn't seem like a long time until a few years added up to five, and then? Disillusion. The challenge that had been set revealed itself to be greater than expected.
Prisonshake began in 1986 out of the ashes of the early 80s hardcore punk scene in Cleveland. Guitarist Robert Griffin and drummer Scott Pickering had played together in Spike in Vain and shortly afterwards got together to record what would be Prisonshake's first demo. One year later, with engineer/producer Chris Burgess filling the bass slot, the trio released the first single, "Fairfield Avenue Serenade" in May 1987 and began performing regularly throughout the region, with Doug Enkler signing on as principal vocalist just a few months later.
From 1987 to 1992 the band released a dozen singles, EPs, and several "albums" on Griffin's Scat label, Australia's Rubber (who are also releasing DM), and a few other labels, as well as touring the US twice. After Burgess and Pickering's departure, the core duo of Enkler and Griffin spent the next two years assembling various lineups to record and support what they consider to be their "real" first album, The Roaring Third, though some insist it is chronologically second, third, or fourth.
Enkler and Griffin moved to St. Louis in 1995 and were joined by Steve Scariano on bass and Ann Hirschfeld on drums. Ann did not last long, but she is present on DM's 13-minute "Scissors Suite," even turning in a lead vocal in one section. Patrick Hawley joined on drums a few months later, and the Enkler-Griffin-Scariano-Hawley lineup has now endured for 12 years, though it has done so almost completely outside the public eye. This exile also dovetailed with the Dirty Moons concept, as isolation allowed the individuality of the players' musical voices to become more free and expressive. It also appealed to Griffin's love of archetype - just as in monomyth, the principals left the known, journeyed to a strange new land, had adventures, some fortunate, some not, struggled to find that which was lost, and have now rejoined the world with the prize in hand.
photos (each links to hi-res)
Scissors Suite is one track on the vinyl, but each section is indexed separately on the CD. Both formats will contain the exact same program although they seem to have a different number of tracks.
A couple songs were released in demo versions on some singles and comps long ago, these recordings are all new and definitive.
Serenade +2 7" (Herb Jackson, 1987)
compilation appearances with available-elsewhere songs have not been included, some of the dates may be a little off...
since '95, PS has
contact: scatrecords (at) gmail (dot) com
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