Pela: Anytown Graffiti

Pela are a self-styled "American" rock and roll band, with Bruce Springsteen, The Replacements, Wilco, and the Hold Steady as guiding influences.


Anytown Graffiti

Label: Great Society
US Release Date: 2007-04-24
UK Release Date: Available as import

Pela's debut album Anytown Graffiti is one of the more eagerly anticipated releases of the year. Known for their awesome live shows and two well-received EPs, Pela has finally put out a full-length release. It is one of the year's best. Pela are a self-styled "American" rock and roll band, with Bruce Springsteen, The Replacements, Wilco, and the Hold Steady as guiding influences. That is quite a serious lineage to follow and to compare oneself to. Yet the ambition in those comparisons is more than met by the music, which is charming, humble, passionate, and achingly sad all at once.

It all starts with lead singer Billy McCarthy's voice; it is gruff and harsh, but contains hints of softness. It shines on "Tenement Teeth", where his screams of "it's only love" cut right through the driving melody. The voice has variety; stern and thoughtful on "Anytown Graffiti", quiet but urgent on "Lost to the Lonesome". It always perfectly complements the music, whose melodies propel forward with heavy bass lines and powerful drumming. This is a good rock and roll band.

Themes of escape and angst permeate the album. "Your Desert's not a Desert at All" contains the plaintive cry of "call me if you want to break out." "Anytown Graffiti" revels in the themes of boredom and the open road. McCarthy sings "Get in this car and get out of this place" with a tone of hope, but the listener gets the feeling from his voice that it might never happen. These songs conjure up images of suburban loneliness and the desire for something better.

Other themes come out as well. "Cavalry" tells a story of an army in battle, but it is compelling because of its orchestral chorus, which creates an overarching sense of courage and valor. On "The Song Writes Itself", McCarthy sings "the days just roll by" with the sadness that those words truly carry. The last track "7th and 17th" closes out the album with a lonely guitar and some ambient noise in the background, letting the listener breathe after the torrent that has come before.

In the end, the listener understands why the band considers itself so "American". Every song captures a little slice of American life, from the dullness of the small city to the lofty vision of war to the big dreams of those stuck in limbo. Every song has an elegiac, wistful feel. The band has built up a mythology of four lonely wanderers living the "American" life. The story is a little trite, but the music is powerful enough for you to buy into it. The listener may not understand America from this album, but he or she will certainly feel it.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave geoup

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

This film suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

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

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