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The Boston Phoenix Bugging Out

Prozzäk and the roach motel

By Lorne Berman

SEPTEMBER 20, 1999:  They say myth is science at an embryonic stage -- man's attempt to understand the world around him. And as I sat on the toilet thumbing through press releases and nibbling on some KFC, I decided to take a crack at comprehending my surroundings. Little droplets from the ceiling were plopping on my head. A two-inch roach was straddling my chicken thigh. But these were peripheral to what lay before me: an album, Hot Show (Epic), by a Canadian band with an umlaut in their name -- Prozzäk. The press release described the music as a synth-pop. Synth-pop shmnth-pop . . . all I could think of were all the truly rockin' bands who'd had the guts to use umlauts: Motörhead, Mötley Crüe, Eräsure . . .

Turns out Prozzäk are a cartoon-pop band or, more accurately, a multimedia commercial-art project featuring not just a CD but also an animated video and an on-line video game, all centered on the adventures of two characters, Milo and Simon. The fictional duo struggle with "strange diseases," "sex queens," and the meaning of love. According to the Prozzäk legend, the two met during some bullshit battle. Apparently they were trying to kill each other when the heavens parted and a mysterious voice called out, "Hey, you dudes should cruise the world and try to get laid." Milo, a beefy blond Adonis, was promptly handed a guitar, and Simon, who's short, gawky, and plagued by heartbreak -- well, Simon didn't get much. Along with playing guitar, Milo's job is to nurture and counsel Simon on relations with women as the two prance around like Saturday Night Live's "Ambiguously Gay Duo." Hot Show is essentially a musical journal of these travels.

Ah . . . so you, the reader, are now faced with a meta-myth -- a myth about a myth while I'm trying to kill this bleeping cockroach. In some circles (namely my room) I am known as Die-is-Roachus, the god of killing roaches. And my nemesis is the same two-inch roach that straddled my chicken thigh. We'll just call him Harris, in honor of my landlord. The incidental music for this epic tale is Hot Show.

The album's first track, "Europa," offers a brief introduction to Milo and Simon, who in reality are Jason Levine (lead vocals/bass/guitar) and Euro-rap specialist James McCollum (lead guitar/keyboards) of some band called the Philosopher Kings. An exotic acoustic-guitar melody ensues -- think of an Aramis jingle or the musical equivalent of Fabio. Milo affects a bedroomy British accent and whispers something about lost love in a faraway town. And then . . . there's Harris on the floor by the TV. I carefully aim a shoe and fire. It hits the wall above Harris. Damn.

"Europa" and the two similarly styled tracks that follow it have me longing for the pre-Harris days -- the era of synth-pop acts like New Order, OMD, and Eräsure, synth-pop acts who understood the importance of space and pace and groove. Grooves, be they organic or artificial, are rarely to be found in the monolithic barrages of bass and drums that are so common in techno today. They require subtler, more nuanced settings. It's the difference between buying roses and getting laid, between saying "Let's screw" and going home alone. Prozzäk seem to understand this. "Shag Tag (You're It!)," with its lilting lounge percussion and spidery flamenco-guitar melodies, has groove. In fact, I can see Harris's plate-like ass shimmying. Hell, I'm even bopping about as I strategically slide a Roach Motel three feet in front of him.

A few numbers later, as I pass the time waiting for Harris to step into the trap, I find myself singing along to "Mediterranean Lady." "Do you remember how we met," I croon over the bubbly beat, warmly remembering my first meeting with my antenna'd roommate. "I was lost and asked for help/You were teaching at the local school/We talked a while and then made plans . . . Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Mediterranean cockroach . . . " I toss a 10-pound weight discus-style in Harris's general direction; it misses by inches. His response is kind of funny -- he crab-walks and spins around. I'm not sure whether this is a response to the weight or to the familiar opening chords of "Wild Thing," which emerge from a campy techno-funk intro as Prozzäk attempt to put their own cyber-rock imprint on the garage classic. The track's one saving grace is the guitar solo -- a spray of garage-band noise against the sleek techno pulse.

Prozzäk are a novelty band, so it's no surprise that the real hit on Hot Show is a total novelty tune. "Sucks To Be You" finds Prozzäk's restrained guitar swishes and frantic techno pulses finally meshing. A computer-porn woman's voice coyly states, "Sucks to be you," and Milo playfully responds, "I know, I know." The boy-girl interplay suggests another masterpiece by that band who did "Barbie Girl," or maybe a rare Stacey Q B-side. Inspired, I squash Harris's head with my boot and coolly mouth the words, "It's sucks to be you."

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