Music

Piebald: All Ears, All Eyes, All the Time

Stephen Haag

Piebald

All Ears, All Eyes, All the Time

Label: Side One Dummy
US Release Date: 2004-05-18
UK Release Date: 2004-05-17
Amazon
iTunes

Provided it hasn't already started, let's call an official start to the Summer Music Season with the release of All Ears, All Eyes, All the Time, the latest from good-time pop-punkers Piebald. (And to our friends in Australia and all points sub-equatorial: Happy Winter Music Season!)

It's obvious to anyone who doesn't live in a cave, but it's worth nothing anyways: Summertime demands (demands!) hooky guitars, big beats, and an overall sunny disposition as a soundtrack to barbecuing, beachgoing, and sunburning. Needless to say, All Ears… provides those musical ingredients, and as an added bonus, places Piebald among the leading lights in the pop-punk category.

Piebald have always stood out in their crowded genre by crafting tunes that are light-hearted (not mopey), witty and clever. The trend continues on All Ears…. Album opener "The Benefits of Ice Cream" marries Aaron Stuart's bright, clean guitar lines to lyrics like "Hey, most pessimistic boy in L.A. / Have some ice cream and relax in the shade". Singer Travis Shettel tackles his lyrics with an offbeat voice reminiscent of Built to Spill's Doug Martsch -- flat and a little reedy -- and like Marsch, Shettel mastered the art of sounding naïve and confident all at once.

No where is that naïve/confident balance more in effect than on the album's handful of piano-led numbers. There's always something vaguely precious about piano pop, even on punky tunes like "Haven't Tried It" or the strutting "Part of Your Body is Made Out of Rock" (the heart, you perv), but still, they'll make you forget Ben Folds (if you haven't done so already) and put imitators like Something Corporate to shame. The songs bounce along on Shettel's manic energy, and if they're not the best songs on the album (which they might be), they make you realize that Piebald love pop music and genuine pop craftsmanship.

But first and foremost, Piebald are a guitar band, and hooks spill out of the album on "Human Taste Test", "The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships" (which is shorter and better than Troy), and "Get Old or Die Trying". In a genre where guitar chops aren't always put to their best use, Stuart's an underrated axeman. More evidence can be found in the fuzzy guitar on the Shins-esque "Giving Cup" and "Get Old or Die Trying"'s shredding solo, the latter of which may make you spill your beer at the BBQ while air-guitaring. (Yes, I realize that my attempt to marry this album to summertime fun is an increasingly labored exercise. Please excuse my hamhandedness and know this: All Ears… is a summer album; like pornography, you just know it when you see/hear it.)

Less labored is the band's breezy sense of humor, as evinced in all the song titles mentioned above. But taking this thought a step further, such titling bespeaks Piebald's confidence (aaah, it all sorta does tie together!). Not every band can pull off a tune called "The Benefits of Ice Cream" and not have it lapse into novelty or juvenilia. It's rare to find a band as young as Piebald (despite playing together for nearly a decade, everyone in the band is only in their mid-20s) knowing their strengths and playing at the peak of their powers, but that is the case with All Ears, All Eyes, All the Time.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image