Music

Pylon: Chomp More

Slick production and shrieking howls: A necessary re-release and a chance to discover an influential American original.


Pylon

Chomp More

Label website: www.dfarecords.com
Artist website: www.wearepylon.com
Label: DFA
US Release Date: 2009-10-20
UK Release Date: 2009-10-19
Amazon
iTunes

As the late-70s moved into early 80s, the college town of Athens, Georgia evolved into a hotbed of adventurous, underground music. The town became synonymous with the emerging "college rock" genre and inspired artsy, weird kids of all stripes to form bands and expand the collective sonic palette. The years to follow would see locals R.E.M. and the B-52s achieving mainstream adoration outside the city limits. Although Pylon never had a hit the size of "Losing My Religion" or "Love Shack", the band was no less influential. R.E.M.'s Peter Buck famously called Pylon the best band in America in 1987. Chomp More is an expanded version of Pylon's second LP, and one worthy of their vaunted status with Mr. Buck in particular and American underground music in general.

Gyrate, originally released in 1980, introduced Pylon as a danceable but caustic force. They could make you dance, but could cut you all the same. The production on Gyrate emphasized the hard edges of Randall Bewley's guitar and the ominous, guttural vocals of Vanessa Briscoe Hay. The album, also recently released in an expanded form by DFA, still sounds raw and unhinged today. After a series of singles and EPs, Pylon released Chomp in 1983 following tours with the likes of Gang of Four, R.E.M., Talking Heads, Mission of Burma, and U2.

Life on the road tightened up the band's playing, but fried the mental states of its members and led to a break-up in 1983. Although there would be subsequent reunions in later years, the band never quite regained the potent mix of polished, taut funk and fractured emotions achieved on Chomp, re-released here as Chomp More. The album finds the band giving greater contrast to the howling angst of Hay through an increased emphasis on cleaner production. The grooves may be built for the dance floor, but the tortured vocals on top of them aim for a place much more isolated and desolate. The contrast between these worlds produces an unsettling, but oh-so-nice effect: bringing you close, while simultaneously pushing you away.

While comparisons to Gang of Four and Talking Heads aren't entirely unwarranted, they fail to speak to the singularity of style that Pylon developed. The band managed to walk the boundary between accessible, party dance rock and unsettled personal meltdown better than anyone – and that's some pretty unique territory. The band strikes for the heart of the dance floor with the martial, slashing funk of "Beep". Bewley's guitar interlocks with Michael Lachowski's bass to produce a hypnotic, twitching spasm. Add in the band's wonderfully odd ode to Scrabble, "K", and "Crazy", later covered by R.E.M.'s on Dead Letter Office, this album nearly stands shoulder to shoulder with the brilliance of Gyrate. At times, Chomp More manages to even transcend Gyrate through sheer force of precision and intensity.

DFA's version features "Four Minutes" and three alternate mixes that don't bring much to the table beyond the original. Regardless, Chomp More marks the first time this album is available on CD and, even more than Gyrate, functions as a palpable gateway for a new audience to discover a fantastic band. This release, coupled with DFA's earlier release of Gyrate Plus, regrettably became even more poignant with the sudden passing of Randall Bewley in February 2009.

Despite the inevitable march of time and loss, the spirit of adventure, experimentation and fun embodied in the first wave of American college rock endures today. Pylon was, and continues to be, instrumental in this history. As Peter Buck and the initiated already know, Chomp More is proof positive.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

In their captivating new single, Bodies Be Rivers blur the lines between cutting-edge indie rock and shimmery dream pop.

Bodies Be Rivers began as a project between Lauren Smith and Thomas Stephanos, melding her songwriting chops with his exemplary guitar. Three years following their inception and the duo is now a full-fledged quintet that also features Summer Stephanos, Jason Lawrence, and Matt Moon. They've expanded sonically, too, with a healing sound accentuated by an ethereal blend of dreamy instrumentation and seraphic vocals.

Keep reading... Show less

Forty years after its initial release, one of the defining albums of US punk rock finally gets the legacy treatment it deserves.

If you ever want to start a fistfight in a group of rock history know-it-alls, just pop this little question: "Was it the US or the UK who created punk rock?" Within five minutes, I guarantee there'll be chairs flying and dozens of bloodstained Guided By Voices T-shirts. One thing they'll all agree on is who gave punk rock its look. That person, ladies, and gentlemen is Richard Hell.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image