Suzi Horn: Audrey Hepburn suitcase, Diana Rigg boots. Tobin Prinz: Julius Caesar hair, Vitas Gerulaitis shoes. Drummer Al: Louis Walsh eyebrows, toy chimpanzee kit.
Prinzhorn Dance School push buttons. That bassline: is it "Peaches" by The Stranglers? A little. The next one: is it "Double Dare" by Bauhaus? A little more. That smash of the snare: is it "Oh My Golly" by Pixies? A lot.
The question of whether what Mr Prinz and Ms Horn do is entirely original is a less relevant one than the question of whether it is valid and necessary. And it surely is. The Brightonian duo may be signed to James Murphy's DFA label, but that fact is as misleading as their name. PDS may make you dance, but only after a fashion: Horn's bassline strikes you deep in the bowels, and rumbles up your body till your neck lurches in rhythm.
With their untreated, no-effects guitars and taut minimalism, they have more in common with Nick Cave's early 1980s primitivisms The Birthday Party than, say, LCD Soundsystem. The closest comparisons of all, however, are The Fall (circa "Eat Yourself Fitter") and Gang of Four (circa "Capital, It Fails Us Now"). Like those bands, Prinzhorn Dance School present blankly Dadaist commentaries on commerce, expositions on employment and lectures on leisure. Twenty-five years on, is that still valid? Somewhere in between malls, McJobs, and the minimum wage, you'll find your answer.
The presence of Maps on the Mercury Music Prize shortlist was a small sign of a cultural shift. Once upon a time, a band like Maps (although the term "band" is somewhat misleading, since bedroom auteur James Chapman to all intents and purposes is Maps) would have been considered part of the briefly popular, then long-derided shoegazing movement. Recently, however, there's been a minor resurgence of interest in the effects-laden dreampop sound of the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the success of the club night Sonic Cathedral and its spin-off record label.
The age of freely available music-making computer programs has made it possible for records such as the quietly lovely We Can Create, Maps's full debut, to come out of nowhere (or Northampton, to give it its proper name), even if Chapman requires a traditional band to recreate it in an elegant floating venue such as Thekla.
Maps make a sound that washes over the listener with the soothing serenity of early Spiritualized, while simultaneously providing an uplifting buzz akin to Arcade Fire or The Flaming Lips. To make the inevitable cartographical metaphor, Chapman is mapping the heavens above, not the earth below, and to paraphrase Wilde, he isn't staring at his shoes: he's looking at the stars.
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