“I Don’t Wanna Come Down,” a song by Reno band Prescription, has a rare kind of swagger. It sounds sort of leather-jacket tough, but with a bouncy groove, youthful confidence and restrained aggression, like a sophomore so badass that all the seniors step out of his way, and all the girls sway and swoon.
Drummer Donovan Williams, bassist Jaron Coxson and rhythm guitarist Dan Damone lay down the tight grooves, while lead guitarist Shane Oakley reels out fuzzy, squealing guitar lines that never stray too far from hummable melodies. New recruit Justin Craperi adds some atmospheric organ sounds to the mix.
The bands conveys a definite rock ’n’ roll attitude—a ride-with-the-devil nonchalance—without the help of vocalist.
“That wasn’t the intention, but we couldn’t imagine anyone we know singing on these songs,” says Oakley. “And these songs are cool without a singer.”
In fact, Oakley’s bright, evocative guitar lines often take the place of traditional vocal melody. He cites psychedelic-era guitarists like Roky Erickson and Jimi Hendrix among his inspirations.
The members of the group see other advantages to being an instrumental combo. Coxson mentions the potential to collaborate with other musicians, like jazz players or solo singer-songwriters, on one-off shows or recording projects. Not having a singer means the group can adapt to different situations, almost like a Reno rock ’n’ roll version of Booker T and the MGs.
“We want to be the kind of band that can jump on almost any kind of bill,” says Coxson. He mentions that the band recently played a straight-edge punk basement show, and they have an upcoming gig with the very un-straight-edge ska-jazz group Keyser Soze. The band members have the eclectic taste and depth of knowledge of avid record collectors, and put that knowledge to work in their music, which draws from punk, prog, psych, soul, and, more than anything else, straight-up rock ’n’ roll.
Prescription’s music stands up well without a vocalist. Some of the band’s faster, more aggressive songs, like “Cracked Actress,” are both menacing and upbeat. (When asked if the song title is a reference to David Bowie’s song “Cracked Actor,” which it clearly is, Oakley is cagey, admitting only that it’s about a girl.)
“It’s sonic guitar rock,” says Oakley. “I personally feel like bringing back really awesome sounding guitars … with great tones and melody, but also danceable. We want girls to like it, too. We don’t just want to play just so a bunch of dudes can mosh.”
Though the group has the sound of punk band backing a psychedelic guitar-player, sort of reminiscent of Neil Young’s early work with Crazy Horse, the songwriting is surprisingly complex. Many of the songs are mini-epics, complete with key changes and rhythmic shifts, and the band is skinny-jeans tight, particularly the bass-and-drums team of Williams and Coxson. (The two have been playing music together since fifth grade.)
The overall effect of the combination of punk rock momentum, danceable swagger and brain-swirling guitars is very ’69, meaning both the musical year, with its associate long-form psychedelic garage rock freak-outs, and of course, the sexual position.