The Phoenix Prestige – The Bullet Catch

The Phoenix Prestige are a China-based (although, not themselves Chinese it seems) post-rock band and The Bullet Catch their second release.

My main issue with this EP is simply that the song writing seems to have been placed beneath a focus on texture and showmanship in the band’s list of priorities. There is no denying that for a three piece the songs breathe and flex with a satisfying chunkiness but the songs themselves just fall a little flat.

The opener, ‘Death Defyers’, is strong enough, a 65daysofstatic-lite instrumental with a misleadingly dancey intro that develops confidently into comfortable post-rock territory. There is a strong Cave In influence and the feeling that they are well within their comfort zone; a victimless crime of a lack of bravery perhaps, but this is still Phoenix Prestige at their strongest.

Second track ‘The Decay’ tells a similar story; the guitar lines hark early grunge and are not dissimilar to Sonic Youth, but with little of their spiky aggressiveness. The vocals, while not offensive (heaven forbid), are aimless and the melody dispensable; it is hard to gauge whether The Phoenix Prestige are aiming for the anthemic likeability of the Foo Fighters or the ambient ambiguity of the likes of My Bloody Valentine; they never commit to either and the result is a muddled spot somewhere in between.

For its faults, The Bullet Catch could have made a perfectly enjoyable listen if it had carried on in the vein implied by the opening tracks. The third track ‘Damaged in the Dark’ however, is just straight up naff and again contains an after thought of a melody and a wondering structure. Only the wonderfully tense synths that lurk beneath stop this track from being completely unlistenable.

Thankfully, the latter end of the EP steps up the game considerably; ‘The Bullet Catch’ and ‘Antarctica’ (along with the EP’s superfluous bonus track) may not be astonishing feats of grandeur but they do showcase a level of expression lacking in the earlier end of the record and are highly welcome. ‘Antarctica’ in particular, with its unnerving synth lines and dark melody renders The Phoenix Prestige into a decent ambient-rock outfit, complete with Radiohead-esque reversed vocals and off-kilter drumming.

The Bullet Catch is a truly unusual release in that it varies in quality throughout quite remarkably; a listen to its opening and closing tracks would suggest a texture heavy post-rock outfit who possess a little more ambition than they do creative expertise, but a promising act none the less. Closer inspection however exposes their continuing lack of direction and melodies that more often than not feel limp. Another release, with the focussed energy of a producer could see these guys step into a different realm altogether though. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for them.