Back in the olden days—that is, before the advent of the internet—a demo was simply a recording meant to demonstrate a song or a musical idea. Demos were used by bands hoping to impress record labels, songwriters looking to sell their songs, and musicians sharing their ideas with bandmates. Demos were rarely made commercially available—in fact, one definition of a demo is any recording made for any purpose other than commercial release.
There were some major exceptions to this. Bob Dylan and The Band’s 1975 album The Basement Tapes was partly comprised of heavily bootlegged demos intended to sell the songs to other artists. Bruce Springsteen liked a batch of demos he made for his bandmates in 1982 so much that he decided to just release the demos rather than re-record them. These demos became Nebraska, one of his best-loved albums.
So the difference between an album and a demo is sometimes fluid. That line has become even blurrier in recent years, as home recording technology has improved to the point that a lot of bands skip going to professional studios altogether. Additionally, the internet has democratized access to music in many ways, and for some rock bands, like Reno’s Prescription, a demo now functions sort of like a hip-hop mixtape, a free release that might not add to the bottom line, but improves the group’s profile.
All of this is to say that Prescription’s Demo 2012 is actually a proper album, or at least a proper five-song EP. The production isn’t super slick, but this is garage rock, so a little fuzziness in the fidelity is a good thing. The instruments are all clearly audible, the drums snap and crack, and the mix is well balanced.
And more importantly, the songs are great. Prescription plays psychedelic punk rock reminiscent of Funhouse-era Stooges. Druggy guitar solos swirl and splay over heavy, swaggering riffs and strutting rhythms. Vocalist Justin Craperi’s vocals haunt the songs like a ghost at an orgy. The whole band conveys a great sleazy attitude, like the greaser who’ll introduce your younger sister to amphetamines. Demo 2012 is available to stream or download at its website, prescription.bandcamp.com, and is certainly worth a listen. And free.