Pylon - Pylon Live - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Pylon - Pylon Live

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2016-07-25

I first heard Pylon via REM. ‘Crazy’ was a song that mesmerized me off Dead Letter Office. In fact, I thought it was the best song on it. Little did I know then, that song was by another band from the Athens scene, Pylon. Since their records were not readily available, I heard more of Pylon than I actually heard them. My wife, who grew up in Atlanta, not all that far from Athens, knew of them back in the day and was a big fan of their song, ‘Cool’. She had the song on a compilation and that was my only exposure to what was fast becoming a fabled band. For years, Pylon records were out of print or hard to come by.

That all changed in 2007 & 2009 with the reissues of Chomp and Gyrate. It was worth the wait. They had angular, jangly guitars and a sparse, no nonsense approach akin to Television and Pink Flag era Wire. Vanessa Briscoe’s snarling, unique vocals were suitably Punk. While I could certainly hear their influence on REM, they were completely devoid of REM’s pretentiousness. Despite being named after a Faulkner novel, there was nothing folksy or heady about them. They were visceral and straightforward. I can also hear their influence on another great 80’s Athens band: The B 52’s. Vanessa Briscoe's influence on Kate Pierson is undeniable. And no small wonder, the B 52's were big supporters of the band. While Pylon lacks the B 52’s sense of camp, they have great stores of humor. In a nutshell, Pylon are one of Indie Rock greatest dance bands. Judging from what I hear from this live set, theirs was a party you wanted to be invited to. The operative word here is: fun! And when its members stopped having fun, they disbanded in 1983. After a 6 year haitus they did reform and occasionally tour, cutting the album, Chain in 1990. Yet, their discography remains limited to only three titles. Which makes this live album all the more welcome. 

Live, ‘Crazy’ proves the ultimate dance number. Pylon's answer to the Twist. “Your feet are shaking and your head is shaking”, Briscoe intones, lost in the song herself. ‘Cool’ and ‘Gravity’ more than hold up to their studio versions, going to show what a tight band Pylon were live. Randall Bewley’s hypnotic guitar is anchored in a no nonsense rhythm section helmed by Curtis Crowe and Michael Lachowski. While I have no details from the label when and where this was recorded, Athens’ legendary 40 Watt club is a good guess. Or perhaps on the road touring in support of Gang of Four or U2.  ‘ITALIAN MOVIE THEME’ and 'Driving School' reveal not only the band’s wit and charm but songs like, ‘Buzz’ find Briscoe literally buzzing like a bee into the mic. All going to show how infectious Pylon truly are. ‘Danger’ brings a little menace to the set and ‘Party Zone’ more than lives up to its title. Closing with a rousing ‘Batman’ is an irresistable touch.

This one is perfect for summer. A sweaty dance club of an album. Makes you wish you were there. Well, this live set is the next best thing. With the sad passing of Randall Bewley in 2009, this is even more to be cherished. When Rolling Stone declared REM  “America’s Greatest Band”, drummer Bill Berry begged to differ and gave that honor to Pylon. And deservedly so.

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