The Prom – In This Way They Found Me

The Prom
In This Way They Found Me

Surprisingly, The Prom’s music is actually somewhat like a high school dance. To be more precise, it’s sort of like the dorky kid at the dance. When those fast, shake-your-ass dance songs come on, the kid looks his part – the dork. All of his missteps and stumbles seem awkward and clumsy. People tend to stay away from him. On the other hand, when the DJ spins a slow, sexy, R & B slow dance, the dork suddenly becomes sort of cute. Now, when he steps on the girl’s foot, it’s cute. All of his clumsiness translates to charm, and he ends up dancing, inexplicably, with a pretty girl.
The Prom’s music plays out like the Saved by the Bell melodrama mentioned above. During their faster, slightly rocking songs, The Prom sound out of place. The singer’s shortcomings will make you cringe. Then, just as you were about to toss them aside, The Prom hit you with a couple of sweet, moving ballads. When The Prom slow things down, they somehow manage to flirt with some pretty good songs. The singer’s missteps somehow seem right at home, like on the best Pavement songs. Fortunately, the Prom seem to know where their strengths lie.
“Jean Alexander Waltz” opens the album at a snail’s pace, with the singer half-mumbling some emo schlock over a buzzing Moog. His voice will initially make you cringe a bit, but only for a second. Soon you realize that it somehow fits the music perfectly. It’s this charming, unexplainable element of their songs that set The Prom apart from a zillion other analog keyboard revivalists. “…To the Boat” follows a similar path, with a clean piano holding the song until another Moog’s calculated fuzz takes over. And that’s the formula: some decent piano work, fuzzy keyboards, plodding drums, and that hit-you-where-it-hurts voice. The last three songs all fit the formula perfectly, and hence, they are all excellent.
The only time The Prom falters are when they try their uptempo, rocking material. Don’t get me wrong, when I say “rocking” in this context, I don’t exactly mean Spinal Tap and blown amps. Rather, the group just speeds things up a bit, probably shooting for some variety. Sadly, this change in pace is hardly needed. The misguided “Atama Transmission” and the grating “Say What You Want” do nothing more than cut into the sincerity and charm of the other songs. While a decent melody and some cool piano playing manage to salvage “Carrie” and “She Stays,” I’d probably still trade them in for two more ballads.
All in all, The Prom come off like a mix between the geek pianos of Ben Folds Five (in a good way), the keyboard fetish of the Anniversary, and the off-key appeal of Stephen Malkmus and Pavement. Why does it work? I haven’t the slightest clue. All I know is, I can forgive the band for their missteps and some typical emo lyrics if they keep up the interesting, heartfelt, keyboard balladry. Some groups just do emo right, and The Prom have that something about them. Not only do they have six or seven good songs under their belts, they have potential too. Hopefully, the Prom will continue to carry through.