By Sam Graham
Prowl are a three-piece alt-rock grunge band hailing from York, up ‘ere in the northern province of Yorkshire. Their album, Clinical features a solid cover that’s attention-grabbing and not too in-your-face. It’s a black and white photo of an old discarded wheelchair taken in what looks like a derelict loft, with bits of junk strewn about. It adheres to the album title and has that underground look about it that suite Prowls music well.
Clinical opens with Victimless, and a drum & bass styled beat played by Loz Goodacre, before the rest of the band joins in. The music is simple, but not in a bad way as it doesn’t need to overdo it. The way Benjamin Sherwood’s vocals (he also plays the bass) carries the song into the chorus works really well. The chorus itself is catchy, and it comes back enough times to satisfy. Towards the end the song it gets a little heavy, with guitarist Jono Sayner churning out some bottom-string action. All in all Victimless is a solid all-rounder to open the album with.
The following song, Encounters, begins with some bass notes a-la Little Green Bag (1969), just not as funky. What follows is firmly rooted in British rock. The guitar and vocals bring Coldplay to mind, and the drums give the song that little tip over the edge that without it would have left the song feeling a bit droll. Loz lends her vocals to the chorus and makes for a nice harmony with Sherwood. LikeVictimless, it’s the chorus that is the selling point of the song. The guitar part that comes in the final third is fantastic. Atmosphere is something this band has captured well on this song and with the lead guitar over the repeated chorus’ makes it worth the waiting for.
The third song, Pulse, is the album’s first long one. Clinical has a few, most a lot longer than this, but at almost 7 minutes, it can’t exactly class as short. After some pulsing on the guitar (I see what you did there), the bass takes the lead with some distorted churning that carries on through the first verse. The vocals don’t change much in the chorus’, but the build-up made by the background music is what makes it enjoyable. The middle section features a nice guitar solo that shows off some skills not commonly seen in this type of music, not in any of the major-label stuff anyways, and that’s something they should be proud of.
Plenty opens with a drumbeat that I can only describe as militaristic Britpop, a cross between Song 2 (1997) by Blur and the Napoleonic War. Sherwood’s vocals come in bursts in this song, often trailing away, but that only adds to the songs atmosphere. The chords in the chorus give the track an estranged feeling and after the second chorus Loz does a bit of singing with Sherwood. It’s this song where she shows she can sing as her vocals in Encounters were a bit overpowered by Sherwood. It’s only short, but the skill is definitely there. Plenty creates a fairly happy atmosphere for itself towards the final third, and Jono Sayner’s guitar solos towards the end have a dirty rock & roll vibe to them that nicely leads the song to its end.
The fifth song, Little One, is more of a straight-up rock song in terms of how it goes. It has less atmosphere than their previous few tracks; instead swaps it out for a solid grunge sound. From the beginning to the end, Little One is a cool song. The riff is simplistic, and the chorus is, again, this band’s forte. The interlude teases you into thinking there’s going to be a guitar solo, like Plenty had, but goes back into the chorus. It’s OK though, as the song is good enough that it doesn’t feel like it needs one.
Inertia is Clinical’s longest track, coming in at just over nine minutes. It has a sort of film soundtrack vibe to it that I really like. If I was to say what it would be the soundtrack to, I’d say anything by Derek Raymond (although he was a writer, you get my meaning). So far the introduction to this song is the best work on the album. It’s subtle, but gets the point across. Inertia doesn’t feel like a nine minute long song, and that’s always a good sign. Long songs that feel like it are usual droning on, or they only exist as a riff archive for tenacious musicians. I must say I was apprehensive when it came to this song, initially put off by the length of it, but now I can say that it is the best on the album at this point.
The penultimate track on Clinical is another long one. Entitled This Time Around, it starts with some high notes on the guitar along with some acoustic strumming while the drums keep it stark and simple. This one feels like it’s trying to be half way between Inertia and Encounters. It’s a good song on its own, but falls short when compared to those two. Luckily, they’re all by the same band, so it’s OK. The reverb on the vocals make those long notes stand out and some of the electric guitar work is really well-done, namely the chorus and just before the second chorus. The wah-infused solo is a nice addition with a few notes here and there to make it more modern. It doesn’t last long as the verse takes it back in substitute for the vocals, but it comes back just after the chorus’ and during the middle. Like Little One, this song is more straight-forward rock. It makes for a nice gap between the more atmospheric numbers and reminds you that when they just want to play a cool song, then can do. Towards the end Sherwood starts screaming ‘Go to Hell’ and ends the song on an angry note. A guitar solo would have been nice, but it works well without one.
The final song on Prowl’s album, Misplaced, is a bit of a love-song, and if it isn’t, it certainly sounds like one. Misplaced is the most ‘normal’ sounding track on the album. It’s very radio-friendly and to be honest, I wouldn’t mind hearing it on the radio. It’s a short song, but meaningful, and the lyrics come across as honest. The guitar, while prevalent through the entire song, doesn’t overdo it. Loz must have nipped out to the shop when they recorded this, because there are no drums in it at all.
All in all, Clinical is a good album. I’d also say that it gets better as you progress through the tracks. Admittedly grunge isn’t my thing, but this album has enough weight to impress and certainly worked for me. There’s parts where I thought ‘oo, that’s weird’ and enjoyed what I was hearing, such as the drums in Victimless. It took a few listens, but I can say it grew on me. The quality of the recording also seems to improve as the album progresses too. Some parts sound a little bit tingy in the first few songs, but Inertia seems to be the turning point. After that, every track has a certain warmth to it. For me, the best song on the album has to be Inertia for reasons I’ve already mentioned.
I’ve never seen Prowl live, but I’ve heard tell they are very good. If they were playing in my area, I’d go see them.
Devil-Horn Rating (Out of Five): \m/ m/ \m/ \m/