Chomp More

While the band was heralded by REM and the B-52s as being the heart of Athens, Georgia’s healthy music scene in the early ’80s, Pylon was never able to mount a successful career like that of their admirers. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, though a lack of continuity may have had something to with it. After making their initial mark on the American underground with a couple of albums, Gyrate and Chomp, on the dB label, the band—singer Vanessa Briscoe, guitarist Randy Bewley, bassist Michael Lachowski and drummer Curtis Crowe—called it quits in 1983. They reunited six years later and toured with REM, issuing the lackluster Chain in 1990 before again bowing out the next year. The band resurfaced yet again in 2004 and, with increasing activity over the subsequent years, seemed poise to finally make good on their enduring legacy and renewed interest in their neopine melodies and hard-edged rhythms. DFA reissued Gyrate in 2007 and Pylon was playing live with more frequency. Unfortunately, in February last year, Bewley suffered a heart attack while driving and died, thus permanently ending the band.

But of course any band’s music lasts much longer than the band itself so long as it is available to be heard, and DFA recently put Pylon’s second album back in circulation (and on CD for the first time) with additional material as Chomp More (just as they reissued the debut as Gyrate Plus). While the release seems bittersweet given the Pylon story’s ending, there’s no doubting the actual music’s eternal vitality.

It was supposedly a degree of dissatisfaction with Chomp when it came out in 1983 that led to Pylon’s first dissolution. Though it’s hard to hear the album the same way as 26 years ago, it’s also difficult to discern what it was that made the band unhappy. While lacking a song as strong as Gyrate’s “Feast on My Heart,” Chomp is still a taut ball of wiry post-punk. On first track “K,” Bewley spews a trail of guitar sparks only loosely tied to Lachowski’s bass thump that leads the way. The herk ’n’ jerk of “Beep” seems remotely of the times but transcends them as Briscoe howls out the song’s simple refrain.

“Crazy” is the record’s most well-known cut, if not for REM’s dreamy, albeit inferior, cover, then because it is also its best. Here (on both the album and added single versions), Pylon takes on a moodier cast, but without sounding any less vehement, as evidenced by Briscoe’s overlapping multi-tracked vocals. As exemplified here Pylon, at its most restless and at its creative peak, was a collision of the multiple elements orbiting within each song’s confines.

While the nervy “Altitude” ends the album proper, the reissue is rounded out by the “male version” of “Yo-Yo,” with one of Briscoe’s bandmates handling the vocals (not sure which), an alternate take of “Gyrate” dubbed the Pylon mix, and “Four Minutes.” The last track, belying its title, is six minutes of the band at its most esoteric. The claustrophobic, metallic clamor Pylon creates here is too abstract for its own good, however much such erstwhile fits of fancy play well into the group’s overall cadence elsewhere. Still, it does little to diminish the record’s lasting impact or that of the band, which with Chomp is once again cemented forever more.
Stephen Slaybaugh

MP3: “Beep”