It’s a unique and risky move when bands share demos of songs their listeners know and love. And it’s probably even riskier when it’s done almost 22 years after the polished studio recordings had first released. Demos are rough, unfinished and usually in a “work in progress” state. They also can sometimes offer different or repeated lyrics than what fans have come to know. The recent release of demos from metal legends Bride is a pretty good example of this. However, for pop rock band PFR, a short EP of roughs from their 2001 Squint Entertainment reunion record, Disappear, works out considerably well.
Since its inception, PFR has been a unique blend of fun and spiritually-serious that has made them a favorite to many, including this reviewer. Their later albums were stripped of some of their candidness, but the unpolished presentation of these demos seems to capture the true essence of the band better than the final recordings.
The opening demo for “Amsterdam” is a prime example. From an edgier rock feel to a rather silly collection of false stops for the song at the end (and some yelling and laughing), it's just plain classic PFR. It captures their unique personalities beautifully. The song also features a different intro and melody, which almost makes it feel like a different song entirely. While I like the album version, I can’t help but smile when I listen to its early rough form.
“Closer” is next and is very similar to the album version, but some of the lyrics are different or missing entirely, with the second verse basically repeating the first one. Again, the roughness feels like early PFR, and it kind of points out just how strikingly different the production of the final studio album was from their more characteristic sound.
“Language of the Soul” is also similar, but is this time driven by an acoustic guitar instead of a piano and a slightly more electric chorus. This feels more like a campfire version. And instead of a strange squeaking sound in the final version that serves as a sort of metronome, here it’s a simple, more organic percussion.
“Even a Whisper” is mostly similar as well, but is also more acoustic driven than the album’s end product, capturing a bit more of a coffeehouse vibe.
Album closer “You” closes out the demo EP as well, and continues the more acoustic nature. For the chorus, the guitars are louder and more fuzzy. This version doesn’t have as “dreamy” a feel as the album version, but I think I might like this more organic take a little better. The main thing the demo is missing is the strings solo at the end that brings the song - and album - to a memorable finish. But, really, both versions are pretty solid.
Overall, if you’re a fan, these demos are well worth checking out. And if you're new to PFR, these rough versions really aren't a bad place to start (although I recommend starting with their album Them). The band recently released them on their bandcamp store for just a few bucks. And even though they’re just rough versions of previously released songs, it’s still always good to get a little something “new” from this iconic Minnesota-based trio.- Review date: 3/7/23, written by John DiBiase of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: None
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