Posts Tagged ‘Athens’

Drive by Truckers‘ penchant towards political observation and criticism is as evident as ever in “The New Ok”. The album’s title spins the ‘new normal’ cliché, often used to describe the apathy towards and acceptance of the dysfunction caterwauling from the politically powerful. Indeed, the album overtly opposes ICE and the caging of children at the border. More so, Drive by Truckers use their album to lend support to the Black Lives Matter movement while questioning white-identity politics and rejecting far-right discourses. Drive by Truckers are not content to examine contemporary political angst as a singular historical moment.

“Sarah’s Flame”, for example, contextualizes Sarah Palin’s role in paving the way for Trumpism, leading up to the white supremacist march through Charlottesville, North Carolina. The New Ok’s strength is derived from its overtness. Drive by Truckers do not hide their intent in symbolism or purple lyricism. By utilizing a conversation-style delivery, their purpose is apparent. Whereas The New Ok is decidedly a bleak portrait of the now, Drive By Truckers urge their audience to acknowledge the deceitful political artery that led society to 2020, then prevent the devastation from further continuing.

DBT released The Unraveling on January. 31st 2020 and set out for what was supposed to be a full year of touring. We completed the first leg of the tour at DC’s beloved 9:30 Club on Feb. 29th. We all went home for a brief break before resuming at Vogue in Indianapolis on March 12th. We were two songs into the soundcheck for that show when we were told that the entire tour was to be postponed indefinitely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We packed up the trailer and headed home where we’ve pretty much been ever since.

To call these past few months trying would be a dramatic understatement. Our lives are intertwined with our work in ways that give us our best songs and performances. It is a life that has often rewarded us beyond our wildest dreams. Speaking for myself, I don’t have hobbies, I have this thing I do. To be sidelined with a brand new album and have to sit idly while so much that I love and hold dear falls apart before my very eyes has been intense, heartbreaking, anger provoking and very depressing. It has gone to the very heart of our livelihoods and threatened near everything that we have spent our lives trying to build.

The original idea for this album was to put out an EP utilizing some great tracks we had from the Memphis sessions that “The Unraveling” was culled from. We actually had a wealth of music recorded in those sessions. Not inferior outtakes, but songs we felt strongly about that didn’t further the narrative of the album we decided to release. We also wanted to include some new songs written during this endless summer of protests, riots, political shenanigans and pandemic horrors. We ended up with a full album that hopefully balances out the darkness of our current situation with a hope for better days and nights ahead.

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I wrote “Watching the Orange Clouds” the weekend after George Floyd’s murder as I watched the whole country rise up in a chaotic firestorm of anger and calls for a righteous change. I wrote The New OK a couple of months later during the heat of the federal occupation in my adopted hometown of Portland, Oregon. We had to record them by sending each other tracks until we had all that we needed for David Barbe to mix the finished songs.

The Distance is a song I wrote in 2011. We had an unfinished demo from early in the English Oceans sessions that we took and finished for this album. Again, it’s a song I’ve always loved but it didn’t fit in with the album we were working on at the time. I kinda consider it an epilogue for our early days of touring in our 1988 Ford Econoline. You could almost call it a sequel to “Let There Be Rock”. “Sea Island Lonely” was written in the back of a car taking me to a super early flight after a show in Southern Georgia. It was one of my favourite takes from the Memphis sessions, a total accident that we completed with horns.

“Tough To Let Go” came to me in a dream. I woke up and immediately wrote it down. We also put horns on that sucker. When I dreamt it, Jason Isbell was singing it. I literally checked with him to make sure that I hadn’t actually stolen it from him. He said I hadn’t, but it was his favourite of my songs from the Memphis sessions.

Cooley wrote “Sarah’s Flame” in early 2019. I’ll let you guess yourself who this Sarah is whose metaphoric spark lit the tiki torches of Charlottesville. This national nightmare didn’t just happen overnight, that’s for sure. “The Unraveling” was a song I wrote several years ago and had always wanted to record but just couldn’t make it work with my singing voice. At some point during the Memphis sessions, I asked Bobby Matt if he would give it a try and he knocked it out of the park. At some point, when we decided to call the last album by that title, we thought it would be cool if we saved the actual title cut for a future record (shades of Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy”).

As we were finishing in Memphis, Barbe told us to go back in and track our cover of The Ramones’ classic “The KKK Took My Baby Away”. He said we’d be glad we did. That’s yet another reason why he’s been our producer for two decades now.

Finally, in putting it all together, in keeping with the timing of its creation and release, we decided to include The Perilous Night which I began writing on the day the Electoral College voted Trump into office and completed the week after the Charlottesville murder of Heather Heyer on the day that the sitting President said that there was blame on both sides. This is a radically different mix from the mix of the single we released in 2017.

Here’s to the hope that we can make 2021 a better year than this one has been. In the meantime, here’s to The New OK!. Patterson Hood The DBT’s – September, 2020 Released October 2nd, 2020

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Having made a ripple of acclaim flow out across the pond, a new American band were given their first UK television appearance on the acclaimed music show ‘The Tube’—that band was Michael Stipe’s R.E.M and they would go on to give a career-defining performance.

R.E.M. were ready to make the newly found glistening stage their own when they were invited for a three-song slot in 1983. The band would take two numbers from their “Murmur” album, ‘Radio Free Europe’ and ‘Talk About The Passion’, Stipe and the group would also give a sneak peek of the upcoming 1984 album “Reckoning” with new track ‘So. Central Rain’.

It culminated in an extraordinary performance in the bubbling creativity of Britain. In 1983, the nation was still reeling from the dissolution of punk and was struggling to find their new sound. R.E.M’s arrival alongside indie acts like The Cure and The Smiths would herald a new age of alternative rock and roll. No longer flash and fashion orientated—R.E.M. offered something new and heartfelt.

“We’re not from Atlanta… We’re from Athens.” – Michael Stipe  
On November 18th, 1983, R.E.M. made their first-ever UK TV appearance performing “Radio Free Europe,” “So Central Rain (I’m Sorry),” and “Talk About The Passion” on Channel 4’s influential but short-lived program, The Tube. The performance marked the beginning of three decades of tour stops, festivals, album recordings, TV & radio appearances, and a lasting admiration for the people and places of the British Isles.

R.E.M. live on The Tube 18th November 1983

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One of the reasons the Drive-By Truckers have matured into one of America’s finest rock & roll bands is ambition; they’re solid players and write great songs, but just as important, they take storytelling seriously, and when they make an album, they strive to do more than just serve up a bunch of new songs. Most DBT releases aren’t specifically concept albums, but nearly all of them have a thematic consistency in which the individual songs cohere into a larger framework. With this in mind, it makes sense that the band would want to do something more elaborate than the run-of-the-mill live disc, and 2015’s “It’s Great to Be Alive!”, recorded during a three-night stand at the the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, California in the fall of 2014, is an oversized (over three hours on three CDs or five LPs) look at the band’s body of work so far, with a set list that reaches back before the beginning (“Runaway Train” was a tune Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley cut for their pre-DBT band Adam’s House Cat) all the way up to “English Oceans”, the album the group released just a few months before these shows.

The Drive-By Truckers have always prided themselves on a butt-kicking live show, so it’s a bit of a surprise that It’s Great to Be Alive! relies so strongly on dynamics, dialing back the tempo and impact of some of the tunes rather than making this set the full-on blowout some fans would expect. It’s Great to Be Alive! focuses less on the sweat and fire of a live gig than on the songs, as Hood and Cooley draw their portraits of folks trying to make the best of life’s situations, which is often a harder and more desperate task than one would imagine. The relatively subdued attack does make more room for Cooley and Hood’s vocals, and both are in strong voice here, and if these performances are often a bit less finely nuanced than the studio originals, nearly everything here sounds more passionate, and the musicianship is excellent, especially Cooley and Hood’s duelling guitar work, Jay Gonzalez’s keyboards, and Brad Morgan’s drumming, which is endlessly implacable and full of lean, thoughtful groove (if this band has a secret weapon, it’s Morgan).

If It’s Great to Be Alive! doesn’t rock with the usual fury of a Drive-By Truckers live set, the band knows when and where to kick out the jams (especially on the three uptempo Southern Rock Opera numbers on disc three), and this 198-minute marathon leaves no doubt that this constantly evolving band is still growing and shifting and putting new perspectives on its music. It’s Great to Be Alive! is a bit less than the definitive document of the live DBT experience, but if you want to know why this is a great band and how good it can be on-stage, this set will tell you just about everything you need to know.

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Originally released October 30th, 2015

“Go-Go Boots” is the ninth studio album by American rock band Drive-By Truckers, first released February 14, 2011, on Play It Again Sam Records. It was produced by record producer David Barbe and recorded during 2009 to 2010, concurrently with sessions for the band’s previous album The Big To-Do (2010). The Drive-By Truckers are a band that likes to do things the old-fashioned way. They proudly proclaim that they record their music “on glorious two-inch analogue tape,” they still think in terms of albums with two (or four) sides, and their sound is firmly rooted in the traditions of Southern rock and the blues. They also hark back to a time when rock bands made an album every year followed by a tour, and if the DBTs haven’t quite held firm to that schedule, since they broke through with Southern Rock Opera in 2001, they’ve managed to release six studio albums, a live CD/DVD, another DVD-only live set, and a collection of rarities and unreleased tracks, all while keeping up a demanding touring schedule.

Any band that busy is likely to believe it deserves a rest every once in a while, and in a sense, 2011’s “Go-Go Boots” feels a little bit like a working vacation. The album is notably short on full-blown rockers and sounds scaled back from the three-guitar attack that’s been their hallmark, often dominated by acoustic guitars and the muffled but determined report of Brad Morgan’s drums. The songs also find the band going back to the well on themes it has visited before — the man of the Lord with a broad but carefully hidden streak of corruption in The Big To-Do’s “The Wig He Made Her Wear” foreshadowed not one but two songs here, “The Fireplace Poker” and the title track, and the damaged ex-cop of “Used to Be a Cop” feels like a cousin to the haunted war veteran of Brighter Than Creation’s Dark’s “That Man I Shot.” But none of this adds up to an album that’s at all lazy. The craft of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley’s song writing is as strong as ever, drawing believable characters and giving them lives that make dramatic sense, and Shonna Tucker just keeps getting better with the graceful and hard-edged “Dancin’ Ricky.” And if the music on Go-Go Boots is less physical than what the Drive-By Truckers typically deliver, it’s emphatic and passionate, with an impressive sense of dynamics and as much soul as these folks have ever summoned in the studio — they’ve rocked a lot harder, but they’ve never cut a more natural and telling groove.

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There are moments where Go-Go Boots recalls Exile on Main St., another album that makes much out of feel and the way musicians play off one another, and if this isn’t as likely to be regarded as a masterpiece, it’s also less self-obsessive, and reveals some sides of the Drive-By Truckers the band hasn’t captured in the studio before. After ten years of hard work, the DBTs are still learning, still growing, and still feeling out new ideas, and on Go-Go Boots they show that even when they’re relaxed, they’re still one of America’s best bands.

originally released February 11th, 2011

gyrate (2020 reissue)

And how about Pylon? You remember Pylon, right? Oh lord. Pull up a chair… While the B52’s were the first to break the seal on Athens, Georgia as a hotbed of artistic intrigue in the late-70’s, and R.E.M. would become the cities most famous sons, Pylon were arguably the city’s favourite band and deepest influence on their emerging peers.

In the late 1970’s Athens, Georgia was buzzing with a raw but sophisticated music scene.

The turn of the decade began producing new sounds from bands like the B-52’s, R.E.M. and art-rock luminaries, Pylon. before they were a band, Pylon were art-school students at the university of Georgia: four kids invigorated by big ideas about art and creativity and society. in 1980 the band released its first record, “Gyrate” and began touring across the country in support of the release. they would soon develop a following across the country. shortly thereafter, Pylon went back into the studio. they gleefully pulled their songs apart and put them back together in new shapes, revealing a band of self-proclaimed non-musicians who had transformed gradually but noticeably into real ones. Now more than three decades later, both studio recordings have been remastered from their original audio tapes and are set for release on New West Records

Athens, Georgia may have been the breeding ground for the B-52’s, but in 1978 it was, for the most part, still a sleepy college town with few places for bands to play when Pylon began to cohere. (It’s worth remembering that the B-52’s had almost exclusively played house parties before moving to New York and becoming a sensation.) Like more than a few great and original groups, Pylon came together without much of a support system or many first hand influences; they were young people creating their own art and making their own fun with it. While it wasn’t their first release (the epochal “Cool”/”Dub” single preceded it by seven months), 1980’s Gyrate caught Pylon on tape when they were still clearly fascinated with their own creative possibilities, though they were tight enough to sound elemental and straightforward rather than amateurish. The skittery chiming of Randy Bewley’s guitar and the expressive whisper-to-a-scream report of Vanessa Briscoe Hay’s vocals give this music plenty of brains, and the lean, minimal rhythms generated by bassist Michael Lachowski and drummer Curtis Crowe lend it all a strong, muscular body; at a time when America was just falling out of love with disco, Gyrate was a reminder that there was more than one way to make music for dancing. As smart as this music was, it was also fun and engaging in a way that many of their peers and followers were not.

Gyrate is full of joy and subtle, surreal wit, and if it sometimes sounds like the work of arty grad students, they’re still grad students who want to cut loose and get in the groove, and that’s exactly what they do. Gyrate is a classic touchstone of the American underground scene of the ’80s, and it sounds as fresh, challenging, and exciting as the day it was released. R.E.M. would become a lot more famous, but Pylon were the band that made the world aware that there was something remarkable happening in Athens, and this was their first triumph.

Pylon performing in a homey space

For alternative music fans, the college town of Athens, Georgia, means R.E.M. and the B-52’s . Through the 1980s, the city was synonymous with a kind of against-the-grain music epitomized by those two bands’ very different styles. In 1987, Rolling Stone named R.E.M. “America’s best rock ’n’ roll band.” Drummer Bill Berry denied it. The best band in America, he said, was Pylon.

In its original incarnation, Pylon only lasted for five years. But no single band did more to define what it means to be an Athens band than Pylon. Formed as a performance art project by four art students who mostly did not know how to play their instruments, Pylon created a startling, original sound by combining formal experimentation with a danceable beat. Beyond their music, band members’ commitment to making art in their small, Southern college town helped transform what had been a tiny network of art students and their friends into one of America’s most important and enduring music scenes. This is how in that period when what would become alternative was new, Pylon broadened the very idea of what a band could be.

In Athens, Georgia, people got into bands the way people everywhere get into most things—through their friends.

As a high school student in suburban Atlanta, future Pylon bassist Michael Lachowski had taught himself photography by reading the Time/Life photography series and building a darkroom in his parents’ house. He met Randy Bewley, future guitarist, in the photography studio at the University of Georgia where the sculpture major from suburban Atlanta had a work-study job. Outside class, Lachowski made drawings, prints, Super 8 films, and sculptures, as well as photographs. Bewley made photographs and other two-dimensional work and later switched his major to painting. As Lachowski remembered, this kind of experimenting with genre just seemed normal at UGA: “We had an exuberant group of people; creativity was prized above all else; everybody was just putting out work. It led to us going out of the boundaries of our disciplines. A lot of us in the art school were trying out different media with a punk rock message, which is just go in there and do it. You don’t need training, or authority or legitimacy. Just figure it out.”

At the UGA library and at Barnett’s News downtown, Lachowski and Bewley followed the art and music news in publications like the Village Voice. After the B-52’s started playing New York City regularly in 1978, Bewley and Lachowski read about people they actually knew. Bewley wanted to form a band, too. Lachowski resisted. His problem with the idea was not that they were not musicians. The fact that they had no experience playing instruments was no different from the fact that they had no experience making prints or installation art before they went to art school. They could learn. Instead, Lachowski hesitated because making music seemed unoriginal: “I thought it had been done already.” But then the friends had an idea. As the band’s singer Vanessa Briscoe Hay remembered, “They’d been reading New York Rockerand it seemed like it would be an easy thing to have a band and go to New York and get some press and come back. And that would be it.” Once they got the press, they would quit. Instead of a band, they decided, they would create a kind of performance art.

Bewley bought Lachowski a bass at a pawnshop and found a guitar for cheap at a flea market. Sometime that winter, the two friends started practicing regularly in Lachowski’s off-campus studio, a second-floor space on College Avenue right across from the university. Lachowski worked from a bass instruction book. Bewley played his guitar with an alternate tuning because he did not know the standard one. Plugged into little Pignose amps, they practiced by alternating positions, with one holding the groove and repeating a phrase while the other experimented.

In the future, these long jams would give birth to a remarkable independence between the bass and the guitar parts. At the time, they sounded like “endless riffs.” Curtis Crowe, their landlord, who lived upstairs, remembered hearing “a never-ending series of hooks—no bridges or chorus, just hooks” echoing and vibrating right up through the floor. One day Crowe reached his breaking point: “So I kinda went ahead and knocked on the door lookin’ real timid and said, ‘Hey, mind if I drag these drums in here for a little bit?’ ” The band’s future drummer “had every song memorized before I ever went down.”

When Bewley and Lachowski decided to find a singer, it made sense to them to ask art students whose work they liked. Bewley’s friend Vanessa Briscoe Hay—then Vanessa Ellison—had started out in arts education before switching her major to drawing and painting without telling her parents. After she graduated, she got a job at the local DuPont nylon factory, through word of mouth at the art school. Bewley was still in school, but Lachowski got a job there too after he graduated. Bewley told her about a performance art project he, Lachowski, and Crowe had created that involved making music. Bewley wanted Briscoe Hay to try out for the role of singer. She told him she wasn’t really a musician. Bewley insisted they were all amateurs. What mattered was they respected her as an artist.

The audition at Lachowski’s studio turned out to be oddly formal. On a music stand, her future bandmates had placed an orange vinyl notebook full of typed lyrics. They would play a song, and she would try to make the lyrics fit, sometimes cracking up in the attempt. “They couldn’t really hear what I was doing,” she remembered, but “they liked the fact that I put forth some honest effort and they liked the way I looked, and they liked me as a human being.”

When the band debuted on March 9th, 1979, in the second-floor space downtown above Chapter Three Records, it was hard to imagine its members would soon be local stars. All the songs they played were originals, except the theme song from Batman. Briscoe Hay stood on a mirror with her back to the big windows that looked out on old campus and concentrated on the words. Bewley and Lachowski looked at their hands. Only Crowe seemed at ease. In Athens, everyone danced at parties, and yet the audience at that first Pylon show and a second at Crowe’s loft stood strangely still. As Crowe told a critic in 1981, “Nobody knew what to do, so they were real polite.” In a letter to a former professor, Lachowski added a list of comments he had heard after their first few gigs: “too art oriented,” “conceptual,” “they sound like a bunch of artists who got together and decided to have a band,” “Michael, your music sounds just like your art,” and “they’ll like what you’re doing in New York (as if to imply that they don’t really in Athens).

At their third gig, though, at a house in the country, everything changed. As Briscoe Hay recalled, “The B-52’s showed up at that party, and they started dancing and running around like crazy and everybody else did too.” After the show, Briscoe Hay said, Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson “were very supportive.” They said, “You’ve got to play New York.”

To get that date, Pylon had to make a demo. Someone bought some Kmart cassette tapes, and the four art students recorded themselves playing a few songs at Lachowski’s studio. Then Schneider gave a tape to Jim Fouratt at Hurrah, a punk dance club where the B-52’s had been playing lately. The timing was perfect. “Rock Lobster” was a New York hit, and the B-52’s reached the peak of their underground fame in the weeks before the release of their first album that July. Fouratt actually called the members of Pylon in Athens, read through a list of coming bands, and asked them who they wanted to open for. Bewley and Lachowski picked Gang of Four.

In New York, a huge crowd filled with other musicians turned out at Hurrah to see Gang of Four. Briscoe Hay borrowed a whistle from the doorman and blew it during the song “Danger.” People in the front shook Bewley’s hand after the set and badgered him with questions about how he came up with his strange tunings and original chords. After they got back home, the September 1979 issue of Interview arrived with Glenn O’Brien’s review that gave as much space to Pylon as to the Gang of Four:

Pylon, the first Athens band to hit the town since the B-52s. A tough act to follow—but Pylon is also a credit to their community. There’s not much resemblance to the Bs. Although the guitarist has real classy taste in licks that is sometimes reminiscent of Ricky Wilson’s. Pylon has a charming chanteuse up-front—sort of Georgia Georgie Girl who manages to carry off several difficult postures, including kooky, endearing, sincere and wry. And not all the songs sound the same. These kids listen to dub for breakfast. Recommended.

Interview was not New York Rocker, but O’Brien’s coverage was better than the band members’ dreams, even if they had to look up the meaning of the word dub. Their project was a success, but they did not want to quit. They were having too much fun.

In making their performance art rock, the four members of Pylon drew on what they had learned in art school about the ways that tensions between materials, mediums, and expectations could animate art. Middle-class kids holding down working-class jobs, they turned the factory into a style. Posters featuring orange safety cones and music full of machinelike repetition punctured by whistles and screams contradicted audience assumptions that small Southern towns produced only county and folk sounds and handmade things.

Their name referred to “the kind in the road, not the architectural one or the ones that hold up electricity,” as Lachowski wrote a former professor. “We chose Pylon because it is severe, industrial, monolithic, functional. We subscribe to a modern techno-industrial aesthetic. Our message is ‘Go for it!, but be careful.’ ” Working the contrast between flat, machinelike minimalism and ragged, Southern-accented amateurism, their songs used a four-on-the-floor disco beat to mash together punk’s emotional excess and industrial repetition and detachment. The bass throbbed and the drums boomed as guitar licks cut across the rhythm section without being leads. The vocals varied from deadpan recitations of short phrases to howls, and Briscoe Hay rarely flirted with the audience. Instead, she belted out vocals while bouncing up and down and shaking her head like a dancer in a Charlie Brown television special. Sometimes, she blew a shrill whistle midsong, like a referee or a cop.

Live, Pylon’s act could be shocking or jolting or heavy. It could also be deep. In fusing pop and rock forms with an avant-garde sensibility, the band members asked what art could mean in the midst of industrial decline, production-line mass culture, and rising political conservatism. And they tentatively offered an answer. “Be careful, be cautious, be prepared,” the lyrics of their song “Danger” warned. But be creative, too. “Everything is cool.” “Turn up the volume.” “Turn off the TV.” “Now, rock and roll, now.” “Read a book, don’t be afraid.” “Function precedes form. Things happen.” Pylon pushed people to think as well as dance, to put their minds and bodies back together. Playing live, the four art students could pound their awkwardness and their amateurism and their artistic vision into something transcendent. If people in Athens revived on a local scale that old dream that music could make a new world, it was because they were living it.

Pylon nurtured the creativity the B-52’s had helped spark in Athens before they left for New York. Pylon’s performances, shows by other bands, and art installations by Lachowski and others transformed the open space behind the Victorian house at 265 Barber Street where Lachowski lived into Pylon Park, one of the emerging scene’s important gathering places. The band also played the club Curtis Crowe started, the 40 Watt Club. In the summer of 1980, Briscoe Hay had to quit her job at DuPont when the B-52’s invited Pylon to open for them in New York’s Central Park. By the end of the year, band members found they could live two or three months in Athens on their New York City guarantees. Pylon became their job.

Over the next three years, Pylon toured the Midwest and Canada with the Gang of Four and played a string of dates in England. In January 1982, they sold out the large Memorial Hall ballroom on the University of Georgia campus. In April, when the 40 Watt moved from Clayton Street to a bigger venue on Broad Street, they headlined the back-to-back closing and then opening shows and packed both rooms. In Athens, Pylon ruled the scene that the band’s members had done so much to create.

If Pylon seemed wildly successful from an underground perspective, outside Athens, New York, and a few other cities, audiences often did not seem to know what to make of the group. Band members made enough money to live cheaply in Athens, but they weren’t exactly comfortable. To reach the next level, they hired a professional booking agent. He landed them a gig most bands would have been giddy to get: the opening slot for U2’s U.S. tour in support of their recently released album War. When they took the stage, crowds impatient to see the Irish band ignored them. As Briscoe Hay recalled, “People were heckling … ‘Where’s U2?’ and ‘Get off the stage.’ ” What everyone said was great felt instead like failure. It certainly was not fun. Maybe they did not really want this kind of success. Maybe their performance art–turned-band was exactly what they said it was, “temporary rock.”

At the beginning of 1983, Briscoe Hay told a local Athens paper, “I think if it ever became miserable, we would just disband,” and in retrospect she was hinting at what was to come. Band members decided around this time to break up at the end of the year, after they fulfilled their bookings, but they kept their decision secret. In Athens, most people found out when posters went up for “Pylon’s Last Show” with opening act Love Tractor.

A recording of that farewell show released in 2016 finally gave those of us who missed it a chance to listen in on this essential moment in Athens history. From the opening note of the first song, “Working Is No Problem,” Pylon played 22 songs with hair-on-fire intensity that did not let up until the five-song encore finished. Over the course of approximately an hour and a quarter of music, the crowd roared out its encouragement. Sometimes the fans sang along to lyrics like “Everything is cool” and even occasionally to guitar hooks, like the woo-woo of “M-Train.” At other times, they just yelled. No one wanted the evening to stop.

Interviewed afterward about the breakup, band members reflected on why they had started making music “as another form of artistic expression.” “We accomplished what we set out to do,” Lachowski said. “It’s not that we are miserable, it’s just that we’ve seen all we’re going to see and don’t want to put any more time into it.” “What was frustrating was not trying to live like other bands, but trying to convince everybody that we didn’t want to do it that way,” he explained. “We were the only ones that understood why we were not out there with the other bands trying to make it big.”

A critics’ darling, repeatedly named the best band in Athens, Pylon carried its art piece so far that it broke up on the cusp of stardom. “We’ll become a cult band now,” Bewley predicted on the eve of Pylon’s last show. “This is a type of suicide that’ll make us more popular in the long run.” And he was right

Randy Bewley, Vanessa Briscoe Hay, Michael Lachowski, and Curtis Crowe of Pylon

Box Set Includes:

  • The studio albums Gyrate and Chomp – newly remastered from the original tapes
  • Extra – a collection of singles, B-sides, rarities and live recordings
  • Razz Tape – the first-ever Pylon recording, a 13-song unreleased session that predates their 1979 debut single, “Cool”/”Dub”
  • Plus a 216 page, full-color, hardbound book featuring a treasure trove of never before seen images and artifacts from the band’s personal archives, and writings by R.E.M., Kate Pierson of The B-52’s, Corin Tucker & Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney, Steve Albini, Jon King & Hugo Burnham of Gang of Four, and many more
  • 47 tracks in all, including 18 unreleased recordings

Pylon band photo

Athens, Georgia art rock group Pylon have announced a new 4xLP box set. “Pylon Box” arrives November 6th via New West Records. The set includes remastered versions of both of their studio albums—1980’s “Gyrate” and 1983’s “Chomp”—as well as the group’s first-ever recording, Razz Tape, and more. Listen to “The Human Body” (from Razz Tape) and a live version of “3 x 3”, and scroll down to see a teaser video for the box set. band that married post-punk, new wave, dance and funk, will be celebrated this fall with a new box vinyl box set that collects newly remastered pressings of their first two albums and adds two records of rarities and early recordings.

The songs on Gyrate and Chomp have been remastered from the original tapes and pressed to vinyl for the first time in roughly 35 years. 18 of Pylon Box’s 47 tracks are previously unreleased recordings. A limited number of box sets will be issued with coloured vinyl.

The set also includes an 11-song collection titled Extra, which features a recording from the group before frontwoman Vanessa Briscoe Hay joined the band, as well as a 200-page hardbound, full-colour book with archival images. It features writing by the B-52’s’ Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson, members of Gang of Four, Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, Steve Albini, and more. Each copy of “Pylon Box” will be autographed by Pylon’s surviving members: Vanessa Briscoe Hay, Michael Lachowski, and Curtis Crowe.

Pylon spoke about the new box, their influences early on, and more. Here’s an excerpt of what Vanessa Briscoe Hay said about Razz Tape:

Chris [Razz] wanted to record us. He’d recorded us at Chapter Three or at a party or something. He was just a nut about wanting to record things. And so we said sure. I don’t remember that we ever used this for anything, but it was late summer or early fall because it was so warm. I remember that.

I was set up in the hall outside of where [Michael] and Curtis and Randy were. And he kept the tape machine in the hall, which was outside of Michael in my studio, and it was also the band’s practice space. He set the mic up for me in the hall. There were two mics in the room: one was for the drums and the other mic was shared by both the bass and the guitar. Y’all couldn’t see me; I couldn’t see you.

We had some songs that we were trying out that were very recently written. “Read a Book” has the instrumental version; I hadn’t written the lyrics for it, yet. And we’d just written “Cool.” We just went through it. We just plowed through it. It’s not overdubbed, but that’s just what it is. And I cringe at some of the things, but the overall sound and feeling of it is very spontaneous. It’s a beautiful record just because of that and, of course, we threw out a bunch of those songs and they were never recorded.

Pylon formed in 1979 at the University of Georgia. They were contemporaries of Athens groups like the B-52’s, R.E.M., and others.
Pylon Box’ is coming November 6th, Colour Vinyl Version Limited to 500 Copies Worldwide.
This comprehensive set includes:

The studio albums ‘Gyrate’ and ‘Chomp’ – newly remastered from the original tapes, and available on vinyl for the first time in more than 30 years
‘Extra’ – a collection of singles, B-sides, rarities and live recordings
‘Razz Tape’ – the first-ever Pylon recording, a 13-song unreleased session that predates our 1979 debut single, “Cool”/”Dub”
Plus a 200 page, full-colour, hardbound book featuring a treasure trove of never before seen images and artifacts from the band’s personal archives, and writings by R.E.M., Kate Pierson of The B-52’s, Corin Tucker & Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney, Steve Albini, Jon King & Hugo Burnham of Gang of Four, and many more
47 tracks including 18 unreleased recordings
‘Gyrate’ and ‘Chomp’ are also available in exclusive coloured vinyl from New West Records (clear editions), Vinyl Me, Please (marble handpour editions), and from independent record stores (opaque red and teal editions).

”Like the Velvet Underground before them, Pylon could be your favourite band’s favourite band.”
NPR Music

Pylon Box Set

Athens, GA cult legends get their snakey, jangly debut reissued, remixed by R.E.M.’s Bill Berry and Sugar’s David Barbe

It’s a good week for ’80s janglepop and Southern post-punk. Pylon are getting a box set and their essential first two albums reissued in November and, also just announced, their Athens, GA neighbours (and DB Recs labelmates) Love Tractor are getting their debut album reissued via Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records.

Coming up at the same time as R.E.M., Pylon and The B-52’s, Love Tractor share a little of those group’s DNA but were unique in the Athens scene in that they were an instrumental band, making jangly, danceable rock that didn’t need vocals to grab you. The band would start singing eventually, but early records were driven by the inventive guitar interplay between Mark Cline and Mike Richmond. Bassist Armistead Wellford added groove and R.E.M.’s Bill Berry was among the group’s early drummers for the band before Andrew Carter joined full-time.

Love Tractor’s debut album is catchy and atmospheric, and does it while mostly avoiding surf rock cliches you associate with instrumental rock. “When I hear it, I love it. It sounds like nothing else, like nobody else,” says Cline of the album, and I have to agree. The reissue has been remixed from the original tapes by Sugar’s David Barbe and Bill Berry, and features liner-notes from R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, The B-52’s Kate Pierson, and esteemed rock journalist Anthony DeCurtis. and the album’s artwork has been reimagined by the band (Cline, Richmond and Wellford are all visual artists.)

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The reissue is out November 4th (pre-order), but before that, Love Tractor will release a 7″ for the October Record Store Day “Drop” (10/24) featuring two newly recorded, re-imagined songs from their debut: “60 Degrees and Sunny” b/w “FESTI-vals.” They’ve also re-recorded “Seventeen Days” as a digital bonus track and you can listen to that, and stream the original album,

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Believe it or not, it’s tough to make it as a musician these days. You can hear this struggle clearly in “Personalia,” the first single from Athens, GA–based songwriter Locate S,1’s forthcoming album of the same name, as she opens the track with the line, “Almost killed myself so I went home / I just cannot take these local shows.” Yet the simmering new wave instrumentation isn’t the only sign of hope on the single, and the album to follow. “Personalia” takes its name from a Mary Ruefle poem, marking a shift in the poet’s creative life from an old woman’s spirit trapped in a young woman’s body to the inverse—that is to say, Locate S,1 represents a hopeful reinvention for Christina Schneider, who’s cycled through a number of musical projects before touring with Frankie Cosmos and signing to Captured Tracks under the new moniker.

Official video for “Personalia”, from Locate S,1’s new album, Personalia.

Drive-By Truckers’ 12th studio album and first new LP in more than three years – the longest gap between new Drive by Truckers albums – “The Unraveling” was recorded at the legendary Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis, TN by Grammy® Award-winning engineer Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Margo Price) and longtime DBT producer David Barbe. Co-founding singer / songwriter / guitarists Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood both spent much of the time prior doing battle with deep pools of writer’s block.

The songs that eventually emerged are among Drive-By Truckers’ most direct and pointedly provocative, tackling the myriad horrors of our new normal through sincere emotion and unbridled heart. Indeed, Armageddon’s Back in Town takes a whirlwind joyride through the whiplash of events we collectively deal with each day while the concluding Awaiting Resurrection dives headfirst into the despair and pain roiled up by these troubled times.

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The remarkable songcraft found on The Unraveling receives much of its musical muscle from the sheer strength of the current Drive-By Truckers line-up, with Hood and Cooley joined by bassist Matt Patton, keyboardist / multi-instrumentalist Jay Gonzalez, and drummer Brad Morgan – together, the longest-lasting iteration in the band’s almost 25-year history. The LP also features a number of special guests, including The Shins’ Patti King, violinist/string arranger Kyleen King (Brandi Carlile), and North Mississippi All-Stars’ Cody Dickinson, who contributes electric washboard to the strikingly direct Babies In Cages.

Released January 31st, 2020