Strung Out - Prototypes and Painkillers
Record Label: Fat Wreck
Release Date: March 31, 2009
Since 1992, this California quintet have been playing fast, melodic, technical skatepunk -- and never slowing down, even through the difficult times. Seven albums later, and after loads of compilation appearances, the band has decided to put all their b-side and raritie efforts onto one full-length so the fans can have all their favorite hard-to-find gems in one place. And boy howdy, are there a whole mess of 'em!
Now, b-side collections are generally hit-or-miss, and this is no different. No one ever expects masterpiece material here, and a majority of these tracks are no surprise for anyone who has followed Strung Out's work -- but for every "Novella" or "Lost Motel" (two of the band's best tracks, period), there are forgettable cuts like "Mad Mad World" or "Sinner or Coward." It should be noted that it's easy to hear which of these songs were initially early recordings, and while the band has done their best to re-master each of the 25 tracks, there's only so much they can do.
Again, let me reiterate: 25 tracks, many of which are splendid ("Velvet Alley" and "Bark at the Moon," from early entries in the "Punk Goes..." series, are terrific), some of that which were left off prior records for good reason. The best compliment one can give Strung Out here is witnessing the growth in sound that the band has gone through. They've become much more melodic and technical in recent years, and perhaps the only downside to Prototypes is that all the tracks are in random order, and only die-hards will hear the evolution. Not everything here is mint condition A+ material (the seven previously unreleased cuts are mainly demos/outtakes), but in all essence, it's not really meant for anyone but the longtime fan.
Make sure to purchase the hard copy if you're a fan, as the band has given an explanation for every track and why it is here, when it was recorded and what the background is. For all the big Strung Out fans, this is a nice hold over until something new. For the casual fans or newcomers, you're better off giving Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues another spin.
I would kill a polar bear to get my hands on a new Strung Out album. I already have the majority of these b-sides but it's great to see some unreleased stuff on here. Really look forward to giving this a listen.