Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Pylon: The Well-Rounded Radio Interview

A brief history of Pylon? Four University of Georgia art students turned musicians inspired by the debut of music from groups such as The B-52's in Athens, Georgia formed their own band and recorded the single Cool/Dub (1979), albums Gyrate (1980), Chomp (1983), and a third album recorded during a reunion, Chain (1990) for DB Records...then disappeared again for too many years. In 2004 Pylon started playing together again and, thankfully, Gyrate can be heard by a new generation given its October 2007 re-mastering and re-release by DFA Records (now titled Gyrate Plus, given it includes the Cool/Dub single).

The band included then, and now, Randy Bewley on guitar, Vanessa Briscoe Hay's vocals, Curtis Crowe on drums, and Michael Lachowski on bass.

Music fans will know that the late '70s/early '80s in Athens, Georgia was a particularly creative period of time, also birthing The B-52s, R.E.M., The Method Actors, Love Tractor, and Oh-Ok. Pylon has, in truth, gone down in musical history as one of those most original bands that may not have had huge commercial success, but who has influenced an untold number of other musicians through their approach and style. Many will also know Pylon by way of R.E.M.'s cover of their song Crazy, which appeared as a B-side and later on Dead Letter Office. When Rolling Stone named R.E.M. "America's Best Band" in 1987, R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry said, "We're not the best rock 'n' roll band in America." Pylon, he said, was the best.

Gyrate is an album with angular rhythms and a simplicity that makes the music feel utilitarian, but always had enough funk behind it that the motivation seemed to be to get you up on the dancefloor. In a similar realm to The Bush Tetras, Gang of Four, or The Au Pairs, Pylon really created a language all their own using the very traditional line-up of vocals, guitar, bass, and drums. With simple, danceable, repetitive, funky music paired with Briscoe's raspy, primal, urgent vocals, Pylon’s music was unlike anything I'd heard—or have heard since—and it still stands up.

Sometime in October I happened upon the information that Pylon would be playing at The Mercury Lounge in Manhattan in early November and I knew it would be worth a drive from Boston. Not surprisingly, the show was amazing and Pylon’s music kept the sold-out audience dancing and having a chance to enjoy their music live once again.

Photo credit: Jason Thrasher