by Andrew Kaster
If you find yourself tiring of familiar sounds while sitting atop the peak of modern critically acclaimed psychedelia, consider Young Prisms’ debut Friends for Now, an exhilarating breath of suspended free-fall into phosphorescent abyss. Eschewing the languorous nature of most shoegazer bands, Young Prisms enter realms of impertinent and concentrated rocking; antonymous to the preconceived notions of the genre. While somewhat as derivative as their contemporaries, there’s something about the peppy approach of this Californian quintet that makes their album more genuine than critics may be willing to admit. Taking a sonic shotgun to the ears, songs such as “I Don’t Get Much” and “Breathless” mark a terse statement on the band’s part as they ride on waves of raucous guitar and steady krautrock rhythms. Adding to their reputation as shoegazer revisionists are the momentous shifts in tempo and dynamics that appear in the tense and focused tracks “Sugar” and “Feel Fine”. The trip reaches its peak on the hallucinogenic and swaggering denouement “Stay Awake”, ending the assault on your cerebral cortex, leaving you half-deafened in its wake.
The only minor complaint I have about this album is the consistent effort they put into paying tribute to the genre, while keeping innovations somewhat restrained. Like all of their contemporaries, keyboards shimmer, drums echo, and voices whir only to evaporate, making for a distinctly familiar setting. The band’s main distinction (besides their uncharacteristically energetic nature) is the clear dichotomous composition of guitars. Though the oscillating tones meld into palpable and full-bodied atmospheres, you’ll often hear the guitars combat one another. As one enters bright and laconic lead parts, the other is taking broad strokes to paint a thick and vibrating buzz. Though somewhat jarring and heavy, there is a “lightness” to the music that keeps everything uniformlypoppy, akin to Jonathan Donahue’s early work with Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips.
Shoegazer is often dubbed as “the scene that celebrates itself”, and it’s easy to see why; flouting the doctrine that these bands adhered to is a difficult thing to do. While Young Prisms hold onto tradition, they have taken a detour into a sunnier and more urgent world that makes Friends for Now such an engaging listening experience. Through their subtle surf-rock influences, bleeding heart chord changes, and ability to get locked into hypnotic dancey grooves, it is easy to excuse them for sprinkling “oohs” and “ahhs” and various other familiar sounds throughout the album. While most of their psychedelic-pop contemporaries are often staid, Young Prisms pull up their bootstraps and deliver shatteringly loud, droning neo-psychedelia that will leave you paralyzed.
RIYL: Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips, No Joy, Eternal Summers, Woodsman, Golden Ages, Sun Airway