Pylon Live is a great document, a great record, of a band at an end, one end, of its life. It recalls, in that say-goodbye way, other records of that type—Life Without Buildings’ Live at the Annandale Hotel in particular. There’s a release of tension and worry and (maybe consequently) a lot of energy as well. You can hear it in every instrument and in Vanessa Briscoe Hay’s jagged and electric singing. Pylon Live is all classic post-punk: these songs are wiry, tough, bare, industrial, pessimistic, unrestrained. Music that labors on your behalf. [Here is also a pretty wonderful interview between Vanessa Briscoe Hay and Michael Lachowski of Pylon and Bradford Cox of Deerhunter].
Can you imagine being tailed in real life? Even if it were only during a walk around your neighborhood—how insanely unnerving would that be? I don’t know if I would ever notice, first of all, unless the tailer was very unskilled, or if I would possess the necessary sang-froid to actually evade the tail if I noticed it. I’d probably just try to duck into the first shop that would allow me to linger and browse and sweat in the company of others until the threat passed/got bored.
Joanna Gruesome, a band that reminds me of a Blood Brothers-influenced version of Los Campesinos, were apparently interfered with (possibly by government folks) when they were on tour in the US. This is (depressingly) not super-surprising, given what happened to Godspeed You! Black Emperor not too long ago when they were on tour (and there are other precedents too). Pretty Fucking Sick (Of It All) is the result of the band’s reflection upon their misfortunes here, and it’s a very good song about a very shitty thing. It’s a little Long Blondes, a little Belle and Sebastian, a little Aislers Set, a little steel and jagged anger.
It might be possible to get so weird that you burn yourself down into the face of the earth. To wit: Matthew Friedberger, formerly/forever of the Fiery Furnaces with his sister Eleanor, drove the FFs occasionally to awesome and insane places, then released a double solo album (Winter Women & Holy Ghost Language School), then released what seemed like maybe 1,000 Oulipianishly-contrained songs of wild intensity in the Solos series (what little I’ve heard from that was fascinating), and then Matricidal Sons of Bitches, which I have never heard, though which apparently consists of 45-ish instrumental tracks. Then there was nothing for quite some time (perhaps because Friedberger was recouping his powers), and now—or last year, actually—there was Mr. Fried Burger, I Resume?, a straight-up bonkers sort of rock-opera/song-suite that I only discovered thanks to music message boards. Like a lot of MF’s music, this is supremely unpredictable and almost inhumanly creative, which results in both compelling and not-so-compelling songs. In the former category is this song, I wasn’t working, which is just so, so, so fucking good. Great singing, insane synth and guitar riffs, it rolls and revolves and bursts. Give it a listen and check out the rest of the album.
Some songs are the result of pure inspiration and instinct. A musician says, ‘I picked up the guitar and it came out: a song.’ Other songs are planned, mapped out, wrangled, hacked at, planed, and defined into existence over a long period of time. Stephen Steinbrink’s songs have the pleasantly mannered feel of the latter type—along the lines of Jon Brion’s productions, or maybe even Utrillo Kushner’s Colossal Yes project (or even Sea and Cake, to some degree). Gentle but spirited. Something that was tamed a long time ago, many generations back. Intricate and catchy. Easy to like.