It's 2006, and a band called Prizzy Prizzy Please is opening for Mu330 in St. Louis. It's the first time this writer will see the Bloomington-based act, and even though they're putting on a great show, the crowd is absolutely bewildered. It isn't punk, ska, jazz or indie rock. Or maybe it's all of those things. A few awkward ska kids briefly attempt to skank, but stop after a few seconds. Nobody has any idea what's going on.
Fast-forward six months. Prizzy is playing a packed basement in Bloomington, the drunken crowd in perpetual motion — crowd surfing, beer spilling, mass sing-alonging.The sympathetic hometown crowd isn't trying to simplify, classify, deny or defy the band.
And after building that no-questions-asked audience for several years, the members of Prizzy —saxophonist and lead singer Mark Pallman, keyboardist Ted Wells, bassist Bob Allen and drummer Scottie McNiece — left their safe haven of Bloomington in August 2009 to make Chicago their new home. They had infiltrated both Bloomington and Indianapolis by the time they moved north, and had scored opening gigs for Murder By Death, Umphreys McGee and, most impressively, Spoon, at The Vogue.
Three covers Prizzy play during their live show — "Life During Wartime" by Talking Heads, "Bed For Scraping" by Fugazi and "Thunderstruck" by ACDC — give a good sense of the band's sound, which encompasses the eccentric pop of Talking Heads, the intelligent punk of Fugazi and the mindless fun of ACDC.
Prizzy's new album Chroma Cannon, which dropped April 20 on local label Joyful Noise Recordings, is the band's most fully-realized release to date, following on a self-titled full-length that cannibalized tracks from demos and splits.
"We had been recording new songs piecemeal for about 18 months prior to recording Chroma Cannon, but the longer we sat on these songs, the more we became dissatisfied with them," lead singer Pallman said. "We realized that if we changed our minds too much, Chroma Cannon would end up like Chinese Democracy. Axl Rose kept changing his mind and starting over with the recording, so that what he finally released was a steaming pile of shit."
Of those 12 songs recorded prior to the Chroma Cannon sessions, only five made the cut forthe new album.Jump start the band... or else
After the move to Chicago, the band realized that it was do or die. As band members adjusted to life in the new city, they put music on the backburner.
"We knew that we needed to jump-start the band, or it would fizzle out," Pallman said. "So we started writing songs and tried to knock out the recording in one session, mostly just so we couldn't change our minds about it."
Gone from the new album are party punk anthems like "Indefinite Suspension" (probably the closest thing to a political song that the band will write) and "Too Many T-Shirts."
"The change of scenery might have changed our sound," Pallman said. "But then again, I have no idea how the brain works."
Chroma opens with the infectious "Large Hadron Collider," which sketches out the conflict between scientists and commoners concerning the super-collider ("Give it all that you got, if it's the best thing that you do/Cause we're the brink of something special....Then the people said, oh, no, don't turn it on"), before a time traveler visits mid-song to foretell the collider's apocalyptic impact.Hear "Large Hadron Collider" and "Lost" from Chroma Cannon (courtesy of Joyful Noise):
The rest of the album is filled with archetypal melodies, solid musicianship and outrageously goofy lyrics.
Not that Pallman is making a hard sell: "Rock and roll is idiotic. It's something that is so stupid that it should never be taken seriously, but it's so entertaining. A lot of bands today listen to their own hype, and some of these bands, especially some of these huge indie rock bands, actually think that they're making some kind of poetry.
"There's nothing grand or visionary about the album. It's just what we do on any given day."
The Indianapolis release show for Chroma Cannon will feature synth-pop maestro Totally Michael, local mainstays Abner Trio, and the wild card of the show, Stardeath and White Dwarves, a psych-pop act that worked with The Flaming Lips on their recent Dark Side Of The Moon cover album.