Much of the U.S. new wave scene was as much garage/psych revivalism as anything else, but so long as the music was good fun there wasn't any reason to complain. And thus arrived the Prefab Messiahs, who besides having a great name and a proto-college rock dress sense clearly loved many things acid-ridden and more than slightly spaced out. Devolver, a late-'90s reissue that captured most of what the band recorded via live sets and rehearsals and the like, shows the band -- notably featuring future Abunai!/ Lothars member Kris Thompson on bass and backing vocals -- merrily careening through a series of mostly brisk, ramshackle joys. It might be a bit limiting to say that their contemporaries were probably the Three O'Clock for the sweetness and the Fleshtones for the mania -- if anything, though, songs like "The 16th Track" sound a bit like the Damned in their Naz Nomad guise, while others would fit in well on a Syd Barrett album or two. In any event, the trio plus various assisting performers -- including Ringo Casiotone, cousin to such legendary drummers as Echo and Doktor Avalanche -- manage to nail a good blend of lightness and merry insanity. "Franz Kafka" is a great example of how the band could turn things into a great full-on rave-up. Humor was always core to the group's approach -- while not a comedy band as such, the fact that some song titles included "Prefabedelia" and "Rice 4 a Sheik" says it all. Lead singer Xerox Feinberg's singing is in ways the secret weapon of the band, both beautifully disaffected and snotty in a classic Nuggets sense. Meanwhile, various minute-long songs interspersed throughout are mostly off-the-cuff bizarro dialogues and rants, thus "Got a Hole in Me" (addressed to "Mr. Donut").
by Ned Raggett