I first became aware of plucky Detroit quintet Prussia because of their slot as openers for part of tUnE-yArDs‘ past fall tour. Though I missed the tour, I was left wondering what kind of band could possibly open for Merrill Garbus’ brassy, boisterous vocals and bodacious tribal beats. I got my answer when I caught Prussia during this past CMJ Marathon at a free show at Pianos.
Prussia’s music is as much Garbus’ opposite as it is its equal. It’s downright sumptuous, drawing from a wealth of lush sounds and taking all sorts of unexpected twists and turns, but it’s also filled with vibrant energy and pseudo-childish whimsy. The band’s latest record, “Poor English” (released earlier this year), is split into three parts for easier consumption, but still flows as a cohesive piece featuring sophisticated handling of orchestral flourishes and brass swells alongside jangly angular guitar riffs, and buoyant percussion that frame quirky but charismatic lyrics. Showing an impressive amount of forethought for a group of young, energetic twenty-somethings, the album was composed as a song cycle with predetermined keys and tempos and all sorts of recurring themes and ideas.
On “Poor English”, Prussia make frank overtures about sex that are reminiscent of British art-rockers Wild Beasts‘ own openess with the subject. There are no metaphors or attempts to hide it. Instead the band uses the bawdy references to inform their narrative choices like “Justin: The Pornographer”. “Poor English” manages to raise infidelity and promiscuity to an almost epic stature, due to in part to Prussia’s grandiose arrangements, and also a larger than life performance style that provides the indie-pop answer to rock and rap’s “fell in love with a stripper” trope – only, you know, actually good.
You can download “Pretty Baby Don’t” and “Justin: The Pornographer” below, or follow up the links for more.