You know you're getting old when nostalgia for all things popular when you were in high school hits. Right now it's happening to those of us who were teenagers in the mid- to late '80s. Bands like the Epoxies and Crème Blush are reviving the long-dead spirit of Depeche Mode and other synth-pop trendsetters, while Interpol -- and now the Prids -- have staked a claim on the gloomy territory once covered by Joy Division and the Cure. As the cliché goes, all that is old is new again; or, more aptly, all the people who listened to that music are old, and now they are determined to rehash the past, taking anyone who will listen on a trip down Memory Lane. The nostalgia trip isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it's resulted in some quality music, at least to this Gen Xer's ears.
Love Zero is the latest entry in the retro '80s canon and the first full-length effort from the Prids, a foursome that sprung out of Lincoln, Nebraska in 1998 but has resided in Portland, Oregon since 2000. The Prids' previous output includes the EPs Duracraft and Glide, Screamer, but their debut LP hardly feels any more substantial, with a scant running time of just under 30 minutes. If it feels slight once it's over, though, at least Love Zero satisfies while it's in the disc player. "The Problem" kicks things off with a rush of nostalgia-fueled adrenaline that doesn't let up until mid-way through the proceedings. One of the highlights of the first half is "Panic Like Moths", a bombastic, sweeping instrumental that achieves a slower, dramatic bridge, lush keys, and a smoldering climax, although performed at breakneck speed in around two minutes.
The majority of the songs that follow plod, then sweep, then plod some more -- but in a good way -- and shift textures and tempos to create mood in a strikingly short and sweet amount of time. They do this using monotone vocals, epic keyboard lines, angular guitar riffs, and propulsive drumming recalling Joy Division's final masterpiece, Closer. One reviewer described this sound as the bastard child of New Order and My Bloody Valentine at their peaks, but the comparison to the latter band puts too much emphasis on intricate guitar work, which isn't what the Prids have to offer. Really, it's Jairus Smith's epic keyboard parts that give the band its kick, while Mistina Keith's plodding, Peter Hook-like bass lines are what give the first comparison credence. What the Prids have that most of the bands to which they've been compared don't have, however, is male/female vocal interplay. Since the vocals are so far back in the mix, it's not always easy to discern exactly what the Prids' lyrics are all about, but with titles like "All Apart and No Fall", "Panic Like Moths", and "Love Zero", you know it can't be too pretty.
The untitled sixth track (actually, it's listed as "...") marks a slight shift in the album's sound, a brief, instrumental mood piece that hints at the quieter, slower songs that close the album. In its acoustic simplicity, "Artificial Heart Designer" takes on a dark, alterna-folkie bent while the band fleshes out the closer, "Not Even Sometimes", with tribal drumming and hypnotic, repetitive strumming that brings to mind the Cure's longer, atmospheric numbers. It's a somber yet contemplative note on which to end the album, lending it the weight that the short running time might have prevented.
While the Prids have served up a hot slice of retro-sounding music, what remains to be seen is whether they have a future once the nostalgia dies down. After all, the constant reruns of The Breakfast Club on cable have become tiresome already, everyone seems to have retreated from their vintage Jordache right back into their modern faves, and surely the resurgence of '80s music can't survive. Hopefully the Prids can keep up by moving beyond their influences on future releases.