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Prairie School Freakout

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Album Review

Although they had released an EP prior to this, Prairie School Freakout really marked the arrival of Eleventh Dream Day. Somewhat disappointed with their first effort, EDD decided to basically cut this album live, and what you hear is the sound of a young band letting it all hang out. Things get off to a blistering start with "Watching Candles Burn," and the energy hardly lets up at all throughout the set. With a great batch of tunes and the guitars turned up to 11, the bandmembers tears into these songs as though their lives depended on it, and flat out deliver. Neil Young & Crazy Horse (music-wise) are an obvious point of comparison, as are Dream Syndicate and maybe X, but EDD are all Midwesterners, and maybe that's what helps make their sound distinctive. Janet Beveridge Bean and Douglas McCombs are a solid rhythm section, and Rick Rizzo and Baird Figi make a glorious racket when it's time to solo, especially on the epic-length "Tenth Leaving Train" (from the Wayne EP). "Beach Miner" drops a Richard Lloyd guitar figure over a Crazy Horse chord progression for a tune that'll stick in your head for days. Then there's the odd narrative of "Among the Pines," where a man splits his head open slipping in the shower, and the tale of killer "Albert C. Samson." No wonder Atlantic took notice. Eleventh Dream Day went on to construct better overall albums, but they never rocked harder than on Prairie School Freakout. This album smokes. [Out of print for years, Prairie School Freakout was re-released in 2003 by Thrill Jockey in deluxe fashion, pairing it with the follow-up Wayne EP and adding five period videos on a separate CD-ROM disc. The sound and picture quality of the video footage won't win any awards, but it's nice to have a visual document of this period of the band, and it's worth checking out to see McCombs with hair and Rizzo's dazzling stage moves at the very least. The performances are good, too.]


Formed: 1983 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The career of the noisy guitar unit Eleventh Dream Day -- one of the most resilient and criminally underappreciated bands to rise from the Midwestern underground community -- was a textbook study in alt-rock endurance; despite a nightmarish major-label tenure, ill-timed roster changes, and commercial indifference, the group persevered, ultimately emerging as elder statesmen of the flourishing Chicago independent scene of the mid-'90s. Eleventh Dream Day's origins dated to 1981, when singer/guitarist...
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Prairie School Freakout, Eleventh Dream Day
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