While they’ve been busy working on their upcoming eighth studio album and breaking their bones by rocking too hard, the fellas in melodic hardcore outfit Strung Out also found the time to crank out a second rarities compilation, this month’s Prototypes and Painkillers. At 25 tracks, it’s packed with demos, alternate takes, comp tracks, covers, and even a few rarities. The collection proves to be eclectic, going from metal to pop punk with little notice. And while the sequencing is sometimes jarring – that cover of Descendents’ “I’m Not a Loser” never sounds right sandwiched between the ever so slightly harder-edged “Novacain” and “Novella” – it ultimately just proves just how far Strung Out’s grasp extends. If you like pop punk, metal, hardcore, and a fusion of any of the three, you’ll find something to love here.
Prototypes and Painkillers ignores chronology in favor of some semblance of a rise and fall motion, which applies as much to the audio quality as it does to the playing style. For the most part, though, the songs are unified by thundering drums and crunchy riffs. There are a slew of comp tracks to choose from – Beyond Cyberpunk’s “Betrayal,” Short Music for Short People’s “Klawsterfobia,” and “Lost Motel” from a Fat Club seven-inch. Of particular note is a cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark at the Moon.” It starts out pretty straight, but quickly morphs into a punk rock stomper before adding a late game soft jazz break. It’s an abrupt shift that makes the song all the better.
The collection cheats a little by padding itself with demos and early versions of previously released material, though. It seems unlikely that a devoted Strung Out fan would need a rough cut of “Mad Mad World” or “Just Like Me.” But, these demos are mostly near the end. They don’t interrupt the listening experience whatsoever; think of ‘em as a bonus greatest hits sneak peak. Newcomers get a peak at other Strung Out albums and Protypes and Painkillers gets to stay relevant after they buy Twisted By Design.
For the devotees, there are some previously unreleased tunes as well. Aside from that Descendents cover, “Pleather,” “Sinner or Coward?,” “Night of the Necro,” and “Forever is Today,” while bootlegged, have never had an official release until now. Throw in the bevy of non-album tracks like “Your Worst Mistake” and that no-seriously-this-rules version of “Bark at the Moon,” and Prototypes and Painkillers is another successful release from Strung Out. It gets a bit long at 67 minutes, but that’s part of the album’s beauty – it represents so many different styles that it nearly demands you tear it apart and digest it track by track anyway. The new album will come when it does; Prototypes and Painkillers already marks 2009 as a strong year for Strung Out.