It sometimes gets overlooked, due to the collective outpouring of romance surrounding LCD Soundsystem and the seismic waves caused by the dropping of the Rapture’s “House Of Jealous Lovers” single back in the early aughts, but DFA’s post-punk division is nothing to sneeze at. Keep in mind, we’re talking about post-punk in the austere, minimal, and very British sense. In other words, more Wire and Fall than Gang Of Four, more Joy Division than New Order. The UK duo Prinzhorn Dance School fly this banner very proudly. Their debut long player, a 2007 self-titled effort, was a grand exercise in restraint, with many songs featuring just cleanly picked bass, skeletal guitar, insistent drum beats, and huge gobs of empty space, over which Tobin Prinz and Suzi Horn delivered their heavily accented, declarative vocals. Arriving nearly five whole years after that debut, Clay Class does little to shuffle the deck, but it at least adds some different colored cards to it.
Although the album was recorded in a cottage and a barn, the songs on Prinzhorn Dance School sound like they were written in a cramped, unfinished basement lit by a solitary light bulb hanging from the ceiling. While the mood remains largely dour here, it at least sounds like they moved their practice space upstairs into a living room that features window views of a perpetually rainy Great Britain. Which is to say that the songs stretch out a bit more, the guitars raise their voices every now and then, and a couple of tracks even express feelings resembling romantic longing. This latter characteristic pops up in the aptly titled “I Want You,” with its steady bass drum heartbeat and pulsating ascending bass line. Such blatant hookery is a little shocking coming from the duo, and the head spinning is continued by the almost funky “Your Fire Has Gone Out.” Two songs even make pleas to “turn the lights up,” and “let the light back in.”
There really isn’t much in the way of variation to be found throughout Clay Class‘s 11 tracks and 45 minute running time. It’s pure genre commitment, a release seemingly geared directly towards classic post-punk aficionados. The simple, slapdash headline and sentiment would be that Prinzhorn Dance School have made the same album two times in a row, but that would ignore the added intimacy, the hookier tracks, and the warmer sentiments that pop up every now and again. Their change between 2007 and now may be incremental, but it’s enough to qualify as a definite improvement on their debut.