Sunday, May 31, 2015

Audioblogging: Pylon Live, Athens, August 2004

Pylon were an instant favorite of mine from the moment I heard their first 7". They were always somewhat overshadowed by their Athens compatriots the B-52s and REM, probably because they weren't as adorable and media-friendly as the former, or as slick as the latter. On the other hand, they WERE as catchy and infectious as their more fortunate native comrades.

Otherwise, Pylon had much more in common with British post-punk bands like Gang of Four and PIL, with their heavy-bass-driven grooves and scratchy guitar. I believe their greatest strength was almost certainly their fatal weakness: their lead singer. Vanessa Briscoe eschewed new wave girl cutesiness with a growling rasp and abstract lyrics. She was more like Johnny Rotten than Debbie Harry. In fact, the entire band was practically anti-cute.

During their first period, from 1979 - 1983, Pylon released a handful of superb singles and two great albums, Gyrate and Chomp, which I have never gone more than a couple of months without hearing. They gave it another brief go in the late 80s/early 90s, but the momentum had vanished, and their final album, Chain, was not without its charms, but fairly unmemorable. 

Fast forward to 2003: I was talking about music with a coworker when the subject of early 80s music came up. I was surprised when he asked, "Have you heard of Pylon?" and then I almost fell over when he said that they were old friends of his. About a year later, he revealed to me that Pylon had just done their first gig in years, and that Randall Bewley, their guitarist, had sent him a CD of the performance, which he passed along to my astonished hands.

Shortly thereafter, I was thrilled to meet Randy in person when he came to my work to visit our mutual friend. He revealed that Pylon wasn't going to attempt to get back together as a full-time thing, but that they'd have future shows and perhaps make new recordings. All of them had gone on to other careers, and they were happy with their "erstwhile beloved" status while being realistic about their place in the music industry food chain.

And then... Randy died. Horribly. And that, really, finally, was the end of Pylon. Sometimes the world just isn't fair.

So here, thanks to Randy, is their "public practice" gig from Summer 2004, the first time they had performed together in many years. I don't believe this has ever been released to the web. They sound really good considering the time which had passed, and it's telling that they didn't do a single song from their nondescript third album. The song list:

1. Recent Title
2. Cool
3. Working is No Problem
4. Gravity
5. Weather Radio
6. The Human Body
7. Read a Book
8. Driving School
9. Beep
10. Crazy
11. Dub
12. Volume
13. Feast on My Heart
14. Danger
15. Stop It!
16. M Train

The mp3 files are zipped up in a 85mb archive and downloadable here, and you can read more about the gig here.


PS: It turns out the Pylon typeface is Eurostile Extended Bold.


Anonymous said...

Good taste on the love for Pylon. I remember seeing the "Crazy b/w M-Train" 7" all over town with those fishing stickers on the sleeve.

samael7 said...

I actually remember Pylon, and I want to say they performed in Gainesville, FL, while I was in college there, a few times in the late 80s, probably at the Hardback. But I remember lots of my musician friends back then having various Pylon songs on their mix tapes.

MrBadTrash said...

Man oh man, is Mr Bad Trash ever so grateful for this recording! It's so tragically sad that Randall died prematurely, but you are blessed to have met him. That's the sort of brush with stardom that carries weight with me. In the course of my work, I've been confronted with Warren Beatty, Dan Quayle, Cardinal Mahoney, David Hasselhoff and Destiny's Child, to name a few. But there's so much more meaning in meeting one my teenage musical heroes. Downloaded the zip, can't wait to hear the whole concert!

Peteykins said...

Yay! So great to hear from you, Mr. Bad Trash!

Diane Griffin said...

Cool! I'll download this as soon as I get to my own computer...

Diane Griffin said...

Cool! I'll download and listen as soon as I get home.