[sic] Magazine

Nick Prol and the Proletarians – Loon Attic

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Anyone who has read my previous reviews knows I’m something of a Cardiacs nut. Beyond the intriguing music and the thoughtful presence of leader Tim Smith (who, even after difficult physical problems, including strokes, still finds time to connect with fans on Facebook), is the community that the group inspires. ‘Pondies,’ as we are called, are spread out all across the globe and are united by their love of this delirious and fantastic band.

Why do I preface this review with that disclaimer? Because I think it is important to know where I discovered this music and where the band leader, Nick Prol, is coming from before discussing it. I befriended Prol on a Facebook Cardiacs chat group about a year ago. He was teasing this album for some time before it was released, and when it finally came out, I ordered a physical copy on Bandcamp and started listening to the digital copy.

Disclaimer: Nick did not ask me to review this album nor are we anything like close friends. I actually asked him if I could review the album as I wanted to get it out to a wider audience. I only say this so that you don’t think some sort of buddy promotion was at play here!

That said, Prol has created an engaging and diverse album that will draw in fans of just about any type of experimental rock. Prol is a true believer in the Cardiacs sound, a fact that is highlighted quickly. The first few tracks had me believing I was listening to long-lost Cardiacs outtakes, a statement that Prol would likely take as a compliment. The sound of the guitars, the arrangement ideas, and the shifting sonics (all well produced, I might add) screamed Tim Smith. Even the somewhat thin vocals remind me of Smith, who often mixed his vocals to mingle with the instruments to create an ‘ensemble’ feel in which no instrument was the overriding and obvious leader.

Another thing about the vocals that unite them with Smith’s approach is the way that they often serve as a guiding light through some very complex music. While I’m not yet sure if Prol’s music is as difficult as Smith’s (further listening is required), this isn’t the kind of thing you sit down and learn how to play by ear in an afternoon. These songs have been worked on, tweaked, and edited. To some who like their music spontaneous, this may be a downside. However, spontaneity was clearly not what he was going for here. Instead, Prol assembled quite a cast of musicians to help flesh out his sound. This includes luminaries like Evyenia Karapolous, Charlie Cawood, Moe Staiano, Dave Willey, Paul Sears, Bob Drake, Mohadev, Thymme Jones, Oliver Grant Campbell, Michael Dawson, Carla Diratz, Matt Lebofsky, Dominique D’Avanzo, Emanuele Sterbini, Nathan James, Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth, Anthony Garone, Rob Crow, and the always welcome DIY king R Stevie Moore. How he got all these people on the recording will be discussed in an exclusive interview, as this is an intriguing story in and of itself.

So is this just Cardiacs-lite that fans will enjoy, but which doesn’t create its own voice? Not quite, as Prol is no slavish imitation artist. The Cardiacs influence is obvious, but Prol also stretches his RIO or Rock In Opposition wings Groups from this 70s-80s era often used dissonance, compositional complexity, and very left-leaning lyrics to promote a rather overt socialist agenda. While not all bands in his grouping were socialist (Univers Zero seemed mostly interested in sonic terror), many were. Prol does not preach a political agenda here, but does use the dissonance and difficulties of RIO to color his work. While I can’t say he goes quite as in-depth with RIO as he does with Cardiacs (for one thing, his compositions are nowhere near as long as most RIO bands, which allows him to pack 23 tracks onto one CD), it does add a sense of diversity and even danger to the recording. The lyrics seem to follow a more absurd style, though he admits in his interview that the lyrics often possess very personal meanings.

In the end, Prol has created a fun and entertaining album that will delight any Cardiacs fan. While some of the harsher moments may be a little too difficult for many, it remains a surprisingly focused and engaging listen, in spite of its many tracks and the complexity of its arrangements and songs. Suggested to fans of Cardiacs or anyone who likes fast-paced and forward-thinking music.

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