Prawn – Kingfisher
Record Label: Topshelf Records
Release Date: August 12, 2014
This could very easily turn into one of those reviews full of pining for the past and your first tattoo. It could also be one of those reviews where a clearly overblown statement like, “Kingfisher is maybe just maybe the best album of the year” is thrown around not just to appease press release writers, but to make it clear that on rare occasions the line between praise and hyperbole becomes blurred. However, as I contemplate changing my title on this website from “Contributing Staff Writer” - which is more a statement of quantity than anything else, I’m told - to “Contributing Prawn Guy,” I think it’s within my rights to heap piles and piles of acclaim on Kingfisher simply on the grounds that it deserves it.
The band has taken their post-rock leaning sound and added so much bite that you can almost see the teethmarks on songs like “First As Tragedy, Second As Farce” or “Dialect Of.” Singer Tony Clark’s lyrics are still that nice mix of accusatory and self-defeating, and there’s plenty of lines worthy of chanting to the point of madness. There are missives here that will surely become at least a couple of bad calligraphic tattoos, “If the gods are fair, then I am fucked,” or vulnerable moments that will grace more than one inside cover of a moleskine, “I can’t blame you / I’d do the same if I could.” But what the band has done smartly, is recognize these quotable bits and made them the centerpieces to songs that would otherwise be just a bit too formless. The trick with albums ruled by noodle-y guitars is that sometimes it can seem like bands are finding their way as they record. Prawn avoid this with air-tight songwriting that still feels emotional; things meander because they need to, not because it’s what necessarily made sense.
And Kingfisher is one of those albums of necessity. It’s statement after statement of rose-colored nostalgia crashing headfirst into reality. On the quiet and brooding “Old Souls,” we hear, “You can rearrange me now / Put my feet back on the ground now / Put the blood back in my veins,” right before one of the most pleasing and understated drum parts you’ll hear all year. The whole thing builds, before falling back to silence, never hitting the decibels we expect. But that’s not bad. It’s telling. It’s taking the more difficult road, which is a theme cropping up again and again in Clark’s lyrics. Like on opener “Scud Running,” which has guitars ringing like bells and horns anchoring yelps of, “It’s a long way away.” It’s quite a way to begin Kingfisher, and if meant to be a mission statement, it’s a song that could easily become the band’s most loved.
“Runner’s Body” and the especially haunting “Halcyon Days” close out Kingfisher with lines like, “I keep falling off,” and, “I can’t avoid you / We keep fighting waves." The album closes as it started - touting rebirth through pain. It’s a fact of the world that taking steps forward is never as easy as placing one foot in front of the other. It takes determination, and knowing when to dwell and when to burn down the past. Prawn have shaped themselves into a band who offer more than lyrics, but counseling. And Kingfisher is catharsis created not through grit, but melody.