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Well... it seems that original bassman Mike Kirkland really *was* the crucial factor in Prong's formula: Tommy Victor and Ted Parsons couldn't figure out how to write a good song without him, and it wasn't like the newly-recruited Flotsam & Jetsam alum, Troy Gregory, was helping the situation at all-- even if he *could* slap the bass like a Rastafarian.
The second major label release, "Prove You Wrong" is indeed a ghastly descent into platitude from the violent-yet-lofty transcendence of the speed metal masterpiece "Beg To Differ". There is somewhat of an effort to maintain the aesthetic standards achieved on that previous album: the minimalist songwriting ethos, the Killing Joke-style apocalyptic ambiance, the off-time rhythmic crunch and heave. But whereas "Beg To Differ" characterized the mortal struggle of the Will against the soulless artifices of modern social constructs, "Prove You Wrong" just expresses a shockingly dumb sense of "gettin' pissed", "stickin' it to the man", or any other one of those radio-ready "ME ANGRY" interjections that adolescent drones crave.
The title track, particularly, is egregrious-- the twangy instrumentation and schoolyard-taunt structure show a clear regression all the way back to '50s pop rock, except there's that added "Nineties" handle on production technology, and of course some hearty doses of that vinegary Gen-X angst. The rest of the songs are not much better off, as they're fashioned after the most generic Metallica chugga-riffs placed into the snootier context of edgy Starbucks-rock like Soundgarden or Pearl Jam. There's also a Stranglers cover -- "(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)" -- but it's an obvious token of pandering to major label interests, and utterly lacks the almost childlike vitality given to the Chrome cover on "Beg To Differ"-- that is, "Third From The Sun".
This is the type of creative abortion that most bands never recover from; fortunately, in Prong's case, it was a learning experience. The subsequent album "Cleansing", though it represented another stylistic revolution onto Industrial music, showed a return to purposeful and effective songwriting (bolstered by the arrival of Killing Joke bassist Paul Raven). "Prove You Wrong" is definitely the lowest point for classic Prong: avoid it, and concentrate on the releases from the either the Kirkland-era ("Primitive Origins" to "Beg To Differ") or the Raven-era ("Cleansing" to "Rude Awakening").
I'd have given this one a higher rating were it not for a surfeit of less than imaginative riffs on certain songs, most of which happen to be the ones sung by then-bassist Troy Gregory (ex-Flotsam And Jetsam). More on that later, but for now let us concentrate on the rest of this album, which is disappointingly underrated in the mainstream these days.
Tommy Victor is not the greatest singer out there, let's not gild the lily. However, his gruff, earnest approach has considerable character, limited though he is; he makes good use of what little he has in that realm. And his riffing is for the most part off-the-wall and off-kilter much of the time, lending even more character to the musical proceedings. He's not sloppy or amateur by any means--when I say "off-kilter" I mean his riffs don't have a standard feel or sound to them much of the time.
The skronking, squealing, chattering riffs in opener "Irrelevant Thoughts", for example, lend an extra feel of agitation and nervousness to an already hectic song, tension exploding out on the chorus with sustained chords. In fact, this particular song has a decidedly industrial feel to it with Ted Parsons' precise drumming anchoring the song mercilessly as it drives along its herky-jerky course. Troy Gregory has a trebly, growling distorted bass tone that fits the music and overall harsh sound of the album well, and in fact this is one of the more well-produced albums of this era. It's clear but dirty at the same time, not entirely polished, and I really like its sound.
After this killer opener, though, things take a nosedive as Troy Gregory mans the mic for "Unconditional", which he also does for "Hell If I Could" and "Brainwave" among others--he sings on about a third or so of the album. His incredibly annoying vocals really sink those songs into the abyss, which is too bad, because "Brainwave" has a mid-period Bad Brains feel to it that makes it very cool and reminds one of Prong's NYHC roots. The riff on "Unconditional" is rather generic, and the song itself is not one of the stronger ones on display. In fact, with the exception of "Brainwave", most of his songs are not as good as Tommy's.
The anthemic title track makes for a great song to scream along with at the end of a hard day when you just want to kill the boss and people in general, even though alternates vocals on this one with Tommy. Tommy's pronounced "Noo Yawk" accent, I might add, gives an extra level of attitude and anger to this particular number.
"Contradictions" provides a nice break from the head-knocking barrage of the rest of the album with a slower, more moody and textured feel and a wistful vocal from Tommy that contains one of the greatest lyrics I've ever heard: "Opinions are assholes--everyone's one."
Instrumental "Territorial Rites" is a very creative and dynamic little piece with bouncy drumming and some excellent textured riffs as well as a catchy bassline and is one of my consistent favorites on this album. Their Stranglers cover, "Get A Grip (On Yourself)" is a lively version of the obscure British post-punk band's tune with some nifty bass runs into the bargain.
These are the standout cuts on this album, which is hard to pigeonhole, a good thing in my opinion. Is it thrash, industrial, "groove" metal (a term I royally hate, FYI), hardcore? It's all those things and then some, delivered with New York attitude to the max, and has lots of personality, especially compared to the rather lackluster and faceless albums that followed this one. This and "Beg To Differ" are two of their best releases, and are well worth hunting down for something different than your usual whatever you prefe
Prong are a band that's kind of hung around in the metallic shadows, garnering support mostly from fans of their live act, which also shows their roots in Hardcore. At any rate, frontman Victor Prong has always made Prong, if anything, a distinctive voice and tone amongst other Metal bands.
Mostly known for their album "Cleansing," with the ever-popular "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck," "Prove You Wrong" is it's precursor, and quite possibly the best album in the Prong catalogue. Their crossover blend of Thrash and Hardcore with spices of Industrial here and there are never as present and harmonized as they are here, producing such completely memorable tracks as "Unconditional" and the album's title-track, "Prove You Wrong." This album is without a doubt the more hard-edged of all their releases, providing the bite that should've been a key factor of their career. Again, it should've been.
The thing that attracted me to Prong personally was the slightly cynical aspect of the band. Their style isn't as much Thrash as it is the same type of Groove-oriented Metal that Helmet played, but Prong always managed to draw out this extremely facetious atmosphere. Listen to the tone and riff in "Prove You Wrong" and then try to convince yourself that Tommy wasn't acting a little jocular whenever he made the song. It sounds like Telecaster-y Country groove, definitely not something you get out of your standard Thrash band. Although the concept is just fucking wacky, it works wonders for Prong in giving them a sort of personality that most bands aside from Exodus and Anthrax lack. They manage to actually work stop-and-go riffing and trodding tempos without solely resorting to them for a by-the-numbers style of heaviness. And just read the lyrics. There's a lot of dark atmosphere goin' on around here.
In conclusion, "Prove You Wrong" isn't just a Metal side-note as much as it is the sleeper of the century as far as Thrash is concerned. Prong deserved a hell of a lot more credit for their work in their earlier days, which was somewhat shafted by the later butcherings of music.