‘Behind The Mask’, J Prozac’s solo EP from 2018, was a short and sharp punk/Ramonescore gem. By pairing a couple of self-penned tunes with covers of well known Tom Petty and Ramones songs, the sometime Prozacs frontman ensured that his extra-curricular endeavour was as broadly appealing as possible. A full length release from The Prozacs swiftly followed in 2019, further cementing the band’s obsessions with Johnny & Joey, before an excellent thirty three track collection (‘Fan Favs & Wannabe Hits’) gave everyone a golden opportunity to take stock of the band’s progress so far. For those outside Massachusetts, there was every chance that such a compilation acted as a welcome introduction to their work.
A couple of years on, this two track release – issued at the beginning of 2022 as a precursor to a new studio album – reacquaints everyone with J Prozac in a surprisingly commercial way. The lead track ‘Building Blocks’ is a bit of a shift from the typical straight up Ramones homage most people will be expecting, but isn’t any the worse for that. A hugely hooky number, it takes a punky core and dresses it with a much broader melody, as harmonic guitars pave the way into the first verse with a sense of power pop cool. Once J’s slightly scratchy vocal arrives, the jagged riffs and gruffer stance take on a little more of a punky vibe, and yet the song never truly loses its bubblegum-ish heart. J barks his way – somewhat cheekily – through a lyric that seems to be a less than subtle metaphor for hiding from the world and not taking on adult responsibilities, whilst musically, the main melody bounces up and down in a suitably brattish style, sounding a little like an old Mr. T Experience tune colliding with a Lawrence Arms deep cut. The way J shoehorns the title into the main refrain at every available opportunity allows it to stick after just one listen, allowing it to reach out to the broadest possible audience.
The download also includes an exclusive non-album cut that’ll resonate a little more with anyone who hoped for something more punky. ‘Mandy’ was originally recorded by Italian Ramonescore act The Manges, and J brings it home in effortless style via a sneering vocal and sharp edged riff. He doesn’t really change the arrangement, but in so many ways, this recording makes it seem as if it’s always been a part of the Prozacs universe. In adding a broader sounding vocal and nailing a howling guitar solo, he takes the already great song and makes it seem greater, but the true magic comes during the extended fade when the repeated refrain is underscored with a classic whoah or three, as well a fine melodic counterpoint from the guitar which more than highlights how much The Manges had been influenced by The Queers. In just under three minutes, J makes “pop punk 101” seem both inspiring and vital again.
In terms of pop punk and Ramonescore, this shows J on the cusp of making and releasing some of the best music of his career to date. If you love 90s style pop punk, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll love this, whether or not you’ve experienced Prozac’s previous work – in any form. Simply put, this is an essential freebie.