Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Pylon

  • Gyrate [DB, 1980] B+
  • Chomp [DB, 1983] A-
  • Hits [DB, 1989] A-
  • Chain [Sky, 1990] A-
  • Live [Chunklet, 2016] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Gyrate [DB, 1980]
Vanessa Ellison's bellowed admonitions, Randy Bewley's guitar gradients, Michael Lachowski's peripatetic bass, and Curtis Crowe's prodigious roundhouse drumming add up to an unmistakable sound. I'm impressed. But I wish they'd come up with a few more riffs/melodies as deliberate and haunting as those of "Volume" and "Stop It" and the foolishly omitted "Cool." And while I admire their bare-boned lyrical concept, often the unpretentiousness seems mannered, like some comp-lit cross between Robbe-Grillet and Ted Berrigan. B+

Chomp [DB, 1983]
The only band named after a Faulkner novel, and that's what I like about the South. Though I honor their collective front, and believe in my heart that Curtis Crowe is the great musician here, I know for damn sure that the one who makes me murmur "Oh yeah, that one" five seconds into each of these twelve tracks is Randall Bewley. And suspect the reason I can say no more is Vanessa Briscoe, who looks a lot earthier than she turns out to be. A-

Hits [DB, 1989]
From the cradle of Southern civilization, all of Gyrate and half of Chomp, and I'd still do it the other way round. Also all four sides of two superb seven-inches. "Cool" booms out like the art-DOR sleeper of all time, its only rival "Never Say Never," while "Crazy" and "M-Train" leave the LP stuff wondering what to do. Plus lyrics, which answer many nagging questions and inspire others. How does one grade this pricy embarrassment of riches? I guess one gives it the benefit of the doubt for the singles, which merit digital technology, and the band's big yet spare and spacy sound, which suits it. A-

Chain [Sky, 1990]
Their low registers, deliberate silences, and inexorably unmechanical beat all feed a muscular musical solidity with no real parallels--10 years after, the only band that sounds remotely similar is the Gang of Four, who are frantically neurasthenic by comparison. Of course, the Gof4 hoped to change the world, where Pylon mean only to transcend it, which is only possible till the music's over. So 10 years after, maybe Vanessa's relatively down-to-earth lyrics mean she's headed in the right direction. And while the music's on you can still get lost in it. A-

Live [Chunklet, 2016]
Thirty-three years after the fact, a double-vinyl live album completes the catalogue of Vanessa Briscoe's DOR skyrockets from Athens G-A. Because it documents their very last show, recorded before an enraptured local audience on December 1, 1983, I had major hopes. But since like all live recordings it's subject to audio, pace, and pheromone deficits, I'm obliged to report that it only takes off second half--there are rumblings throughout, sure, but I hear "Feast on My Heart" as the turning point and side four as the must-play. My favorite is the one song I didn't know and also the finale: "Party Zone." I also appreciate the zooming encore: the Batman theme. B+

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