#28: Prolapse– Flex (1995)
The appreciation of music is an inordinately complex affair. It’s not something that can be mathematically formulated; quantitative analysis isn’t going to help here. The other evening’s gig featured a band of undoubted proficiency, the guitars brash and abrasive in a manner I usually find most appealing. The singer’s voice penetrated the auditorium with carefully-plotted urgency, the keyboards added lift and dimension to the sound, yet the distance between stage and this particular witness felt insurmountable, somehow prohibitive, as if a transparent barrier had been erected through which warmth, texture, and context couldn’t flow. In short I was left a little cold; not an unenjoyable night out, certainly – and one friend in particular raved about the gig – but the mechanics behind attraction, behind assimilation failed to proposition this listener.
Thus the context for this week’s Festive Fifty, and a record that starkly exemplifies the allure and dynamism of a particular aesthetic – for whilst it’s true that we can’t quantify what it is about a band’s sound that entices so, we can isolate elements, engage with vague notions and esoteric phraseology to at least point us in the right direction.
And ‘Flex’ – all fifteen plus minutes of it – certainly qualifies as esoteric. If Pointless Walks To Dismal Places, Prolapse’s début album, is a spiky and occasionally subversive celebration of post-industrial kitchen sink observation – perhaps reminiscent of the Fall circa 1982 – then follow up backsaturday, with ‘Flex’ as centre-piece, is the sound of a band at their most mischievously confident. Left-field pop filtered through a luscious haze of Krautrock gestures…
…which to return to the original theme, is one of those unquantifiable elements that triggers such intrigue. A six piece that expanded to seven when long-time Julian Cope collaborator Donald Ross Skinner supplemented the line-up, Prolapse were always a band that faced up to any conflict behind the musical direction with dexterous glee. ‘Flex’ doesn’t really get going until just before the four minute mark, but even such a generous intro can’t preclude a sense of embracing momentum, the portend of a manic grin broadcast through a rapidly evolving resolution. And when that squall does hit its with all the warmth, texture, and context absent from the other evening’s gig, Linda and Scottish Mick’s duelling vox framing the mesmeric thrall of dual guitars (Scottish Mick so called to differentiate the wild-eyed Caledonian front-man from the introverted bass-playing Geordie Mick. Obviously).
This is such a great record. Ambitious, uncommercial, yet it revels in its smouldering sentiment, a song you can never comfortably take your attention away from, lest it turns around to sink its teeth in your leg. A disc that’s been a regularly on the LGM turntable since release; play loudly:
Prolapse / Flex