November 13, 2003

Test Spin: Eleventh Dream Day

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Originally released in 1988, Prairie School Freakout was a high-energy musical breakthrough for Eleventh Dream Day. The recording brought the band their first serious major label attention and eventually led to a deal with Atlantic Records. Long out of print, the album was recently reissued by the band’s new label, Thrill Jockey.

Nobody, least of all EDD, has ever claimed that Freakout was one of the band’s musical highlights. But the album, recorded live in one six-hour session, is one of the best representations of the group’s blistering style of guitar-driven alt-rock. Taking cues from the fervent strumming of Neil Young’s earliest work with Crazy Horse and Sonic Youth’s frenetic experimentation with slightly off-kilter noisy indie-rock, Freakout is an exercise in musical sincerity. The band digs into the simple progressions as if they’re on a do-or-die mission to establish their rock credentials. And with the driving, distortion-ladden guitars and the relentless rhythm section on songs like “Watching The Candles Burn” and “The Driving Song,” they come off sounding like legitimate rockers.

The melodies may be lacking and the production is rough, but Freakout is like a rock ‘n’ roll version of the Little Engine That Could: a testament to sheer musical will power. And with a happy ending to boot. The new packaging and the inclusion of the Wayne EP both add a nice touch to this long over due and worthwhile package.

Archived article by Mathew Gewolb