Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Prayers for Atheists - Self Titled Album Review

Ok, so I couldn't let that Brokencyde review be the top post... it's just not that good, really. Or positive, for that matter. So let's trek forward to a release that I really, really got behind when it was released. I'm still a big fan of this EP and feel it was one of the more authentic albums of 2009. It also helps that the inspiration for it was the RNC gathering right here in St. Paul. Prayers for Atheists still aren't a very well known band, but they should be. They recently had a new album come out and I stand behind it as well (as we'll see in a future review). Well, I hope this cleanses your palette after the nonsense that was my previous post.  For record keeping's sake, this was originally published on July 15, 2009.

Prayers for Atheists is a new project from Jared Paul, an activist, performer, and musician. Having worked with Raine Maida, Sage Francis, and many others this is his first foray into creating music on his own... well, or at least with the help of only Alan Hague, who does all of the instrumentation on the album. As a little background on this EP, it is probably best to simply read what’s on the inside cover of the album jacket:
In July 2008, Jared Paul was among sever hundred U.S. citizens arrested at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN. While attending a “Take Back Labor Day” concert, the mixed crowd of protesters, local residents, show-goers, journalists and elderly folk found themselves barricaded by hundreds of heavily-armed police. The cops, with guns raised, rushed civilians and forced them to the ground, cinched their wrists, and dragged them off to jail without any cause or explanation.
With the wind of the Patriot Act at their back, these overzealous riot squads used mass arrests during the RNC to smother voices of opposition and the efforts of journalists. Jared, like many others, was charged with “felony riot” and taken to Ramsey County Jail. His charge was then lessened to a misdemeanor, and he was urged to plead guilty to avoid a protracted legal battle. 
We said, “Fuck that.”

This 8 song EP is Jared’s response to the emotions, actions, and atmosphere of that time. Politically charged, angry, and well thought out, this is a fiery EP that should be placed among some of the top tier political albums of our modern musical generation. It may feel somewhat out of date, with the change in political regimes since the events mentioned above, but the general ideals of this album go beyond the assumed screed against the Republican party. And musically, you'll find that Prayers for Atheists is a bastard child of Rage Against the Machine, Sage Francis, and Dead Kennedys.

Covering all kinds of musical bases throughout its run time, the album starts off with an acerbic, post-punk number that recounts the events of Jared’s experience at the RNC. With the attitude of the album well established, the duo completely rips open the album with the minute long, hardcore as hell second track. Scaling it back just a tad, Jared and Alan put together a solid rap-rock offering in the form of "Coathangar 18," which reminds us how much the world needs a modern reincarnation of Rage Against the Machine. Rounding off the first half of the EP is another fierce minute of straight ahead hardcore punk in the form of a tribute to Tom Delay.

The second half of the album is a little less in your face, but it doesn’t lack in intensity. The slow, hip-hop “Lot’s Wife” is comparable to a subdued, yet more aggressive version of modern Atmosphere. Jared’s work with Sage Francis is also very apparent in the obvious influences lent to this track. The simple drum and bass background gives Jared a wide canvas on which to lay down his lyrics, creating possibly the best song of the album.

“Rows of Steel” picks the pace up slightly, mixing the mellow verses with aggressive choruses. “Bike Song,” however, may be the weakest song on the album as it feels a little too similar to Rage Against the Machine in spots and has some weak transitions, but it is followed by the 6 minute epic "Wrong Horse," which starts with a slow burn into the perfectly metered interplay of Alan’s guitars and Jared’s vocals. With their flow in full effect, the instrumentation pulls back mid-song before working into a fittingly aggressive end.

This may seem like a lot of talk and analysis over a 25 minute EP, but this 25 minute EP is something that needs to be noticed. Rarely is an album as authentic, heartfelt, directed, and interesting as this. In a day and age of making music only in order to appeal to a scene or to get noticed, rarely do artists attempt to be thought-provoking. Prayers for Atheists is an album that should be intently listened to, so please do. It’s only 25 minutes and it’s 25 minutes you’ll be glad you didn't skip out on.

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