Sometimes you have to wonder if bands like Prinzhorn Dance School exist solely to polarize opinion. Their self-titled debut album’s sparse, disjointed sound came across as either forward thinking or blatantly pretentious, depending on which angle you approached it from. Similarly, their placement at DFA caused both confusion – as they don’t seem to fit anywhere amongst their roster of acts – and applause to the label for thinking outside their comfort zone. The idea of dividing their audience seems to appeal to Tobin Prinz and Suzi Horn, as their second LP most definitely adheres to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” motto.
They’ve got the right credentials for a modern indie outfit: a debut released and mixed with one of the world’s most interesting record labels; a multimedia sense of promotion that sees them create their own video and film art to accompany their releases; and a sharp, fashionable image. Clay Class occupies the same musical space as it predecessor. Lyrics are delivered in spiky, punctuated chants like some obscure hipster mantra we’re not cool enough to be privy to. The majority of tracks burn slowly, with the brunt of each song dedicated to repetitive drum loops and simple guitar and bass strums. It’s an album crammed with long, protracted crescendos that flat line before reaching the expected climax. Even when the music dips into more melodic territory on ‘I Want You’, the lyrics retain the caustic edge of previous track ‘Usurper’. One of the only tracks on which the bass is less prominent than the guitar, the softer approach hides the acerbic tone of the lyrics (“I want you/cage your freedom/in a loving prison”).
The fact that The Kills are able to create electro so filthy it merits a shower after listening, and The White Stripes could muster a veritable wall of sound from a near identical set up, shows Prinzhorn Dance School’s short comings. The moments that they garner something interesting – ‘I Want You’ being one – miss out purely because they don’t have any sense of trajectory. This particular stream of consciousness is one likely to flow straight past the vast majority of the listening public.