Pylon were one of those bands I probably read about more than actually heard back in the day. By the time that R.E.M. released a cover of "Crazy", the seminal Athens, Georgia band that actually wrote that song had been overshadowed by that Stipe-led crew. Still, there's a growing appreciation of the band nowadays and this new release of Pylon Live from 1983 should generate a lot of interest in the group.
On this set, released here as a double-vinyl release, CD, or download via the Bandcamp links below, Pylon -- the late Randall Bewley, Vanessa Briscoe Hay, Curtis Crowe, and Michael Lachowski -- showcase the unique mix of rhythmic rock and new wave that made this band so important so early on, back before anyone ever thought of coming up with a term like college rock. Recorded December 1, 1983, at the Mad Hatter in Athens, Georgia, this set offers up ample evidence of what was probably one of the very best live bands in this country at the time. On stuff like "No Clocks" we're hearing the early days of post-punk in the U.K. filtered through the sensibilities of these American kids. If nothing else, Pylon sound like they are attempting to "Americanize" the tunes of Siouxsie and the Banshees, or the Gang of Four. Closer in tone to those bands than the arty sounds of Talking Heads, Pylon are superb as a unit and each cut here positively bursts with youthful energy of the sort that few bands exhibit these days. The snarling "Danger" virtually throbs with attitude, while "Feast On My Heart" rocks with a bit of a garage rock vibe. Elsewhere, there's a hint of Joy Division on something like "M Train", and a similar mood to famous B-52s singles on "Weather Radio", Pylon removing the kitsch appeal of the music of their Athens compatriots.
Obviously, place is important to remember when one listens to this collection. The band is playing in its hometown and that counts for a lot of the thrills on finally hearing this thought-lost set, brought out thanks in part to Jeff Calder of The Swimming Pool Q's. If one is more familiar with the music of R.E.M., or Fred Schneider's outfit, hearing Pylon cuts like "Crazy" -- covered by Buck and cohorts and released on the Dead Letter Office (1987) compilation -- and "Cool", one can't help but think that the songs sound like material that surely informed that of those other, more famous Athens bands. And that's not to fault what's here but, rather, to add a layer of possible appeal to this Pylon Live release. Serving as a good, basic introduction to the work of this band, it's also a good introduction into the sound that perhaps informed other U.S. acts of the era.
All that being said, Pylon Live delivers more than an hour of some of the best American independent music from an age when stuff like Duran Duran was dominating far too many so-called alternative outlets in this country. This is, literally, the birth of American indie in some way. Fans of stuff like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Vampire Weekend, or even Pavement should be able to hear traces here that perhaps influenced the art of those other acts.