MUSIC FOR CONCERNED CITIZENS
by songwriter Xeerox Feinberg
As requested, here’s some personal-perspective about each album track… either inspirations, thought processes, or interesting “making of” anecdotes.
ABOUT THE ALBUM IN GENERAL
It’s a 10-song album called MUSIC FOR CONCERNED CITIZENS.
(It’s the third full album by The Prefab Messiahs since 2015.)
Original members (since 1981) Trip (Kris) Thompson, Doc (Mike) Michaud and I (Xeerox Feinberg) have been working together and recording “virtually” for years so in a way the pandemic didn’t make much of a difference to our process. (We’re always in isolated lockdown.)
We consider The Prefab Messiahs an ongoing art project, a song-recording and video-making collaborative, as much as a traditional band. But part of the art project is about acting like a garage/psychedelic/pop/rock band, if that makes any sense.
As usual I worked up some song demos and sent rough tracks around to everybody and eventually they add stuff and we chop it all up and mix it together. Then Kris and I do a few days of getting together (in an undisclosed location in rural Pennsylvania) to hash it over, add some more vocals, and basically try to make it weirder and more “prefab.”
The new songs are mostly shorter and faster than on our previous albums, unless when they aren’t. The themes are a bit more overtly about ’the state of things’ but hopefully in an interesting, off-kilter, not too obvious way. Half the album is a bunch of fairly hard-hitting psych-pop rockers. As usual, we wear a lot of mid-century influences on our 21st century sleeves.
I don’t think anything we do really sounds precisely like anything else. We’re always aiming to make original songs that are lasting artifacts in themselves. Hopefully the album can hold up to the kind of obsessive listening in the same way we were influenced by classic 60s and 80s records (and beyond) over the years. At least we can hope!
1) WATER BOTTLE
… showcases a whole “other” side of The Prefab Messiahs — a warped pure pop song with everything dumped in from reverse drum tracks, a soaring chorus, menacing undertones, seagull sound effects, and chiming, Byrdsian 12 string guitar (kudos to Doc Michaud.) It’s about plastic, and the risks of convenience, and —you know — the existential drag of being a water bottle. Like a lot of our tracks, it came together slowly but steadily… a simple riff I played years ago that got an interested raised eyebrow, a random comment from Trip Thompson’s charming significant other about self-hydration, a stripped-down demo that evolved across time and space into a semi-epic during pandemic lockdown. The video features a lot of mesmerizing wave action shot on location from a pier in mask-shunning Florida.
2) WHEN THINGS FALL APART
… takes us right back to the grimy garage The Prefab Messiahs crawled out of years ago (actually, it was a series of musty basements.) I always liked snarling, reverb-drenched mid-60s proto-punk and there is plenty to be disgusted about these days to keep the vibe alive. (In fact, I don’t know why there isn’t more.) “What you think’s goin’ up, I’m pretty sure is down” sums up lyrically what the fuzz guitar bombardment, swirling keyboards, and pounding bass drive home. Doc Michaud contributes the vintage keyboard sounds. Trip Thompson and I handle the deadpan call and response vocals around the ultimate question: “What will you do?”
3) 21ST CENTURY FAILURE
… is sort of New Wave, sort of punk, sort of jangly. It sets the tone for the album’s theme: This high-tech new age has gone straight into the toilet. We are living in a massive societal FAIL. Politically, economically, socially. It could have been different, but it isn’t. It seems very much like a song the early Prefabs would have done, if they were beamed into this future. And in a way, we were! I started tinkering with the song just before the whole virus/mini-apocalypse thing hit: “Get a new disease when you hear a sneeze.” Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to go out of date anytime soon.
… came together as a virtual project (naturally) in the middle of the past year’s Great Lockdown. Do you get your news from a garbage can? Is some cheesy steam punk vampire series you just binge-watched last night more real to you than the actual street you live on? Do you really want to go back outside? Vaccination or not, we’re still living in the Age of the Bubble. We’re all bubble people now, even if we can take those masks off. Musically, it made sense to have some pounding, repetitive rock noise… and yeah, there’s a weird Bowie-esque echo going on. Somebody had to do it!
5) BEAUTIFUL THINGS 2
… Yes, it’s true. Beautiful Things 2 appears on the album ahead of Beautiful Things 1. It’s a massive remake (cover?) of our original original “Don’t Give Up On Beautiful Things” done with faster tempo and slathered in layers of 12 string guitar (from Doc) and weirdo sfx ear worms (from Trip.) IMHO there’s no shame running echos of Gene Clark through a sonic fun house mirror in service of a lyric I’m proud to stand behind — twice!
6) LONELY ASTRONAUT
… An acoustic guitar, a wobbling sci-fi theremin, a whiff of Prefabicana country rock, and The Prefabs drift into uncharted musical territory as Trip Thompson sings about a lost traveler with a golden heart. It’s a whistful meditation about trying to make human connections in a cold universe that can hardly care less (and we have the social media LIKES to prove it.) Bonus: The animated video features a monkey in a space suit.
… is some sort of hard rock hot mess mashup poured into a neo-psychedellic blender. I take the (Iron Butterfly? Steppenwolf?-ish) lead vocals until Trip comes in during the dreamy chorus. The mellotron (of course) was a weird old 60s keyboard that perfectly approximates the sound of floating away from nasty realities. “It’s hard to pay attention when you don’t really care.” Early on in the recording process, Trip was afraid it was coming out like some sort of whisky-drenched bar band blues number… but I’m relieved to say we fucked it up real good.
8) BRING ON THE ROBOTS (REDUX)
… is the song that asks, What if humanity is over-rated? What if we admit people basically suck? What if it’s finally time to BRING ON THE ROBOTS? (Can reasonably benevolent AI do a worse job than human intelligence?) It’s a frothy musical confection of
rock and roll bombast, techno technology, and heart-breaking commonsense — just what the universe ordered:
“Cause we can’t control ourselves, and we need the robots help!”
9) BUDDY (SNAPPER)
… is a rare song cover. Originally recorded by the cult late 1980s New Zealand band Snapper, we respectfully give it the full Prefab treatment.
10) BEAUTIFUL THINGS 1
… was originally released as an animated video single in 2019 as “(Don’t Give Up On) Beautiful Things.” The goal was to mess around with a mesmerizing mid-tempo groove combining some incessant guitar riffs, trippy techno gewgaws, and a hookwormy chorus to make a modern love song about “getting down and not giving up.” Here it gets just a bit of a sonic tweak. I liked the words and basic chords so much we also did another version! (See “Beautiful Things 2”)
10.5) PANDEMIC PAM
… Every concept album should end with an unlisted secret mini-track. And this is it.
On a Different Note:
- Listen: The Prefab Messiahs – 21st Century Failure
- Reviews + Stream – Prefab Messiahs – Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive
- Watch: The Prefab Messiahs – (Don't Give Up On) Beautiful Things
- Video Premiere: Allister Thompson – Forever Autumn
- Blog Summary: March 2019 – Pt. 2