Premiere: PREFECT – ‘HELP!’

Words: James Frostick

After a few years writing and performing across other projects, the members of (the group formerly known as) Bitch Prefect have reunited to create a new record. The Ghost is the forthcoming third album from the Melbourne-via-Adelaide group, with lead single ‘Help!’ finding the trio once again wielding their strine-laced and guitar-forward sound to full effect, this time lingering on the nature of dependence, the passage of time and life never getting easier.

It seems like Liam Kenny, Pat Telfer and Scott O’Hara are growing up. Since first emerging on the scene in the early 2010s as Bitch Prefect, the Adelaide-born trio have made a name for themselves as the unwitting pioneers of the regretfully named ‘dolewave’ movement, succinctly conveying careworn depression through the use of tousled guitar arrangements and honest storytelling. The band reflected a subset of disaffected youth – those stranded in towns and suburbs they hated (often filled with adults grappling with their own keenly honed desperation) where sometimes the only option was to make poor choices, because making good ones was never a guaranteed lane to happiness.

Over two incredible albums – 2012’s Big Time and 2013’s Bird Nerds – the group explored a sort of sad idleness and the concept of never being content with one’s lot in life, but with no real idea on how to change their circumstances. They were a band that existed moment to moment – aware that there was a future to live, but unsure if it was one they’d care for. Through a distinct form of humbled guitar pop, the trio embodied the persona of ne’er-do-wells, shrugging and shuffling through life without means or much motive, but with a youthful rebellious nature that gave them a beguiling charm.

It’s 2020 now and a lot has changed. The members of Bitch Prefect – now known simply as Prefect – have dabbled in various other musical genres, most recently the warped psych-tinged beauty of Peak Twins to the hypnotic club music of Mystery Guest, among others. They’ve assembled lives beyond the suffocating confines of their Adelaide upbringing, immersing themselves in Melbourne’s percolating creative cauldron. I don’t know the band personally, but we’re probably similar ages. The 20-somethings are now 30-somethings – ideally living lives in a more positive mindset. What prompted a return to Prefect is anyone’s guess, but although the members likely aren’t the same people they were more than half a decade ago, it’s doubtful life’s problems have softened their blows.

Prefect’s new track ‘Help!’ is a reflective piece – one about looking back at everything that’s led up to now and taking stock of what you’ve achieved. Here, the group is coming to terms with the fact that they can’t return to their youth, they don’t get a do-over. I get a sense the group is taking stock – of missed opportunities, friendships come and gone, the things they thought would last but didn’t, especially when the track opens with: “Well I tried to hang onto all the things I had / and I thought I would be better at this, but it turns out I’m just bad“. Despite this, there’s a sense of tenderness, the calming comfort of having someone by your side no matter how bad you are at life. The group acknowledges that perhaps they needed help all along, and while the glow of youth fades, they’ve at least got one thing they can rely on, and maybe that’s enough to keep going.

Listen:

Prefect’s new album The Ghost will be released on cassette through Brisbane label Eternal Soundcheck in April. 

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