PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Pilot to Gunner: Games at High Speeds

Adam Dlugacz

Pilot to Gunner

Games at High Speeds

Label: Rykodisc
US Release Date: 2003-03-04
UK Release Date: 2003-03-03
Amazon
iTunes

This is not a new Pilot to Gunner album. Rather, it is the re-release of their debut full length put out by New Jersey based indie label Gern Blandsten in 2001. The re-release of Games at High Speeds begs two questions: Is it any good? Why did it need to be re-issued? The answer to the former is rather simple, yes. The answer to the later is a bit more complicated.

Games at High Speeds is the album that Atlantic thought they were going to get when they plucked Jawbox from Dischord's ranks (for those who don't know who Jawbox is, think At the Drive In without the afros and a more controlled sound). Instead, Atlantic wound up with For Your Own Special Sweetheart, a magnificent album that was guaranteed not to receive any serious airplay. By sharing Jawbox's sense of dynamics but not their "go where no band has gone before" spirit, Pilot to Gunner would have been much more palatable to the radio listening public.

Games at High Speeds opens with the stop-start-stop guitars of "Every Minute Is a Movie". On the second track, "We Got Games at High Speeds", the band's penchant for hooks shines through. While the song begins with some neat guitar and bass interplay, they both give way to anthemic riffing that belies the bands true intentions. The best thing about this re-release is the bonus track, "Action Items", a song that is catchy enough to be the single. In an attempt to blend this superb song into the album, it has been added as the third track instead of the standard relegation to the end of the album. After that, the band seems to settle in, rarely deviating from the blueprint laid out on the first three tracks. Although the remaining tracks fail to match the excellence of "Action Items", they do not disappoint either.

Now, on to the issue of Games at High Speeds being released for a second time. Typically an album is re-issued because it is either out of print or on a label that has insufficient distribution and/or it suffers from horrendous recording. Furthermore, most re-issues are accompanied by bonus tracks and/or a thorough re-mastering. Games at High Speeds is neither out of print, nor does it suffer from a bad recording. Compounding things, the re-issue has not been re-mastered and only includes one bonus track. In a day of CD burners and MP3 players, it's hard to imagine anyone tracking this down for a single song. According to Pilot to Gunner, the reason for this re-release seems to be that the first go around only received proper distribution in America, Asia, and Australia, ignoring Europe. Yet, this is not a European-only release. While Arena Rock Recordings may have better distribution than Gern Blandsten, it's not like they have cardboard displays in Tower or Virgin Records -- making this seem more and more like a waste of money.

Most people who enjoy Dischord-inspired pop probably know about Gern Blandsten and therefore know about Pilot to Gunner. Unlike former label mates the Liars, who jumped from Gern to Mute Records, they are not part of the New York/Brooklyn post-punk, new wave scene that writers and kids everywhere are flipping out for. Therefore, they are unlikely to receive the backing of the British musical hype machine that helped make the Liars cover models for the hippest magazines everywhere. Pilot to Gunners' sound had its day in the neon, and if At the Drive In and Jawbox couldn't make it, it's doubtful these lads will. This record would only make sense if Pilot to Gunner are sitting on the biggest album since the White Album. In that case, they will blow up, and instead of everyone flocking to buy their album on Gern, they'll buy it on Arena Rock. Even in that case, one could make a good argument that the label would have been better served taking the money they put into this and using it on a good marketing campaign for the new album.

If you didn't get a chance to pick up Games at High Speeds the first time around, and your jonesing for a Jawbox fix, by all means pick this up. If you have it, find a copy of "Action Items" to download, and wait for the new album.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.