(Upcoming Release) New West Records Reissues Seminal Pylon Albums and Limited Pylon Box Out 11/6/2020 – A deeper dive

Pylon Box – Colored vinyl version limited to 500 out 11/6

On August 26th, New West Records announced that they will be reissuing the first two Pylon albums as well as an extensive box set with the two albums, an LP of extras and an LP called “Razz Tape” of a recording that pre-dates the albums along with a gorgeous 200-page hardbound book.

For the uninitiated, Pylon was a band from Athens, GA that started in the late 70’s by some art school students at the University of Georgia. For context in the larger history of Athens bands, they’re post-B-52’s and contemporaries of R.E.M. Their distinctively angular and beat-heavy sound would be described as post-punk and follows a path blazed by New York City bands like Talking Heads and Television.

The first phase of their career started in 1978 and after two albums on the now-defunct label DB Recs Gyrate and Chomp and enjoying some well-deserved exposure supporting bands like R.E.M. U2 and Mission of Burma on tours, they split up in late 1983.

Pylon would have just been a footnote in the history of the Athens music scene if it hadn’t been for the 1987 documentary “Athens, GA Inside/Out” which turned leagues of R.E.M. fans like myself on to the band. R.E.M. also recorded a cover of the Pylon song “Crazy” and released it as a b-side to “Driver 8” and it was the first track on Dead Letter Office, a collection of outtakes and b-sides. Peter Buck said in the liner notes, “I remember hearing their version on the radio the day that Chronic Town came out and being suddenly depressed by how much better it was than our record.”

The jittery energy of the live version of “Stop It!” with the militant growled vocals by Vanessa Hey was like nothing I’d ever heard before and even though it was the R.E.M. songs that drew me to the film and soundtrack, it was the Pylon track that ended up being my favorite part of that soundtrack. (Honestly, I always kind of felt like R.E.M. sort of phoned in their contribution with that Everly Brothers cover…)

Pylon reunited and in 1989 released a compilation called Hits which had notable tracks from the two albums as well as some tracks from singles. In 1990 they released another studio album Chain.on Sky Records. They went on tour with R.E.M. and then split up again in 1991. The band reunited for shows sporadically over the years that followed until they finally broke up for good after guitarist Randy Bewley passed away in 2009. Vanessa Briscoe Hay fronts a Pylon tribute band “Pylon Reenactment Society” along with members of other area bands and have even recorded a couple new songs.

In 2007 DFA Records, owned by Tim Goldsworthy of UNKLE and James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem reissued Chomp and Gyrate on CD with bonus tracks . Titled Gyrate Plus and Chomp More, they went immediately out-of-print and the CD’s are now super-expensive in the secondary market. So, clearly there is demand for this catalog to be reissued again.

For Black Friday Record Store Day in 2019, New West Records sort of tipped their hand in the matter by reissuing Pylon’s debut single “Cool”/”Dub.” I reached out to the label about whether they were going to reissue the albums and at the time they confirmed it, but weren’t going to announce anything for a few months. Then COVID happened which messed up record manufacturing, so I’m guessing that’s why the announcement happened much later for the albums and the box set.

The box set comes in two versions, black vinyl and a limited-to-500 colored vinyl version. Four 140g LP’s include new remasters of Gyrate and Chomp, an LP of Extras which include singles, b-sides and other rarities, and Razz Tape, which is a recording of the band which pre-dates their 1979 debut single recorded in their practice space by Chris Razz. 47 tracks total with 18 of them unreleased.

Since they aren’t also reissuing the 1989 compilation Hits which also included some non-album tracks and there were extra tracks on the DFA releases, how do the tracks compare and what are we missing with the box set?

We’ve seen “Cool,” “Dub,” “Crazy” single mix and the “Danger!!” remix from the !! import EP on Hits and the DFA reissues as I indicate below. We have two completely new songs “Untitled” and “3×3” plus a couple of new mixes of “Danger III” and “Spiders.” Not to mention all of the new versions and tracks on the Chris Razz tape.

Notably missing are some tracks included on the DFA reissues. “Crazy (Original Version)” on the Chomp More reissue seems to also be referred to as the single version. “Yo-Yo (Pylon Mix)” or “Male version” (it has slowed-down versions of the vocals) and “Gyrate (Pylon Mix) are two versions that were recorded during the tracks that were recorded at Mitch Easter’s Drive-In, but the versions that were used on the album came from the sessions at Channel One. We’re also missing the 6-minute version of “Beep” that is called “Four Minutes.”

Interestingly, “Functionality” was listed on the Gyrate Plus reissue as a “Studio Demo.” But the liner notes say it was recorded in 1979 in their practice space in Athens, GA, so that is from the Razz tape.

Here are all the tracks for the boxset and the breakdown of where the Extras have been released before:

Gyrate LP

  1. Volume 04:13
  2. Feast On My Heart 03:35
  3. Precaution 02:48
  4. Weather Radio 02:16
  5. The Human Body 03:11
  6. Read A Book 02:02
  7. Driving School 03:53
  8. Gravity 02:37
  9. Danger 05:38
  10. Working Is No Problem 03:29
  11. Stop It 03:06

Chomp LP

  1. K 04:32
  2. Yo-Yo 04:14
  3. Beep 03:23
  4. Italian Movie Theme 02:01
  5. Crazy 03:13
  6. M-Train 03:48
  7. Buzz 02:58
  8. No Clocks 02:57
  9. Reptiles 03:56
  10. Spider 03:58
  11. Gyrate 04:06
  12. Altitude 03:19

Extras LP

  1. Untitled – New track
  2. Cool – from Cool/Dub debut single, also Gyrate Plus and Hits
  3. Dub – from Cool/Dub debut single, also Gyrate Plus and Hits
  4. Recent Title – from Hits
  5. Danger!! (Danger Remix) – from !! EP also Gyrate Plus
  6. Crazy (Single Mix) – from “Crazy” single and Hits and probably Chomp More.
  7. Reptiles (Channel One Version) – New version
  8. No Clocks (Channel One Version) – New version
  9. Spider (Alternative Mix) – New version
  10. 3 x 3 (Live) 02:19 – New track
  11. Danger III (Live) – New track

Razz Tape LP – all new tracks except “Functionality”

  1. The Human Body 03:08
  2. Modern Day Fashion Woman (Version 1)
  3. Read A Book (Instrumental)
  4. Working Is No Problem
  5. Precaution
  6. Cool
  7. Functionality – from Gyrate Plus
  8. Efficiency
  9. Information
  10. Dub
  11. Modern Day Fashion Woman (Version 2)
  12. Danger
  13. Feast On My Heart (Working Version)

Pre-order the box set from New West Records HERE or at their Bandcamp site (where you can stream some of the tracks).

(Upcoming Release) Seminal Athens, GA Band Pylon is BACK with Live Album Out July 25, 2016

Pylon - Live

By the time I first heard Pylon, they had already broken up.  They were featured prominently in the documentary film Athens, GA: Inside Out and its associated sountrack on IRS Records. I bought the soundtrack first– I had heard that R.E.M. had a couple of songs on it, so the completist I was, I needed to own the soundtrack.. The R.E.M. songs were good, and the band I had at the time did a similar version of “Swan Swan H” though we couldn’t really tackle the harmonies of “(All I’ve Got To Do is) Dream.”

But, the real eye-opener was all of the other unknown bands on the album. I really loved Love Tractor, and to this day is still one of my favorites, and The Squalls, and Dreams So Real (who were swept up by a major and then lost forever). I wasn’t sure what to make of the dissonant and angular music of Pylon, whose live version of “Stop It” was kind of the centerpiece of the soundtrack. It wasn’t until I finally saw the film on VHS that I really understood that Pylon was one of the early bands in the scene and all of the other bands really looked up to them, including my heroes R.E.M., who covered “Crazy” which was included in the odds-n-sods compilation Dead Letter Office. I started college later in 1987, and found friends who were really into the Athens scene and I borrowed the two albums Chomp and Gyrate and made a tape of them and was quickly a fan.

The band broke up because they were tired of the pressures that come with a band that was rising from obscurity. In 1990, seemingly out of nowhere the band was back. In an interview with Perfect Sound Forever, they said that they realized that interest in the band wouldn’t die, and they were all still living in Athens, so they decided to reform. The put together a “greatest hits” of sorts called Hits, and then recorded a new album Chain in 1990. By that time, their unique sound wasn’t as leftfield as it was earlier. In fact, bands like The Sugarcubes probably owed a lot to the groundbreaking Pylon. But, they wouldn’t stay together for long after that.

Some time in 2004, the band reunited again and enjoyed notoriety spurred on by the CD reissue campaign of Chomp and Gyrate by DFA Records (now out-of-print again, and going for insane prices).  The band played shows and, I for one was happy they were back. The band broke up officially again in 2009, following the unexpected death of Randall Bewley.

So, in 2016 we have some developments in the Pylon camp.  In March it was announced that a 1980 performance at Danceteria by Pylon in the archives of Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong as part of the Nightclubbing TV show from NYC that captured the early days of Punk and New Wave. There were select screenings of the show with Q&A from the band. Then, in April the band announced a 7″ of live tracks from their last show in Athens, GA in 1983 at the Mad Hatter. This show was captured to video and multitrack audio for a pilot for a failed PBS series called Athens Shows.

It turns out that the 7″ was a taste of what was to come. On July 25th– Randal Bewley’s birthday– Pylon is releasing a 2 LP and digital download version of the last show in Athens titled simply PYLON LIVE. Pylon was a force to be reckoned with live and this album captures them at the peak of their powers with a setlist that picks the great tracks from the 2 LPs and drops in a couple of rarities. “Party Zone” was only available on a rare DB Recs compilation and Pylonized cover of the Batman TV theme with new lyrics.

The vinyl package comes in three different colors– 200 on magenta vinyl (which compliments the cover well) and 200 on clear vinyl. The rest are on black vinyl. The LP’s are a reasonable $29.99 plus about $5 shipping. The digital download is $8.99. If you pre-order, you get immediate download of “Volume.” Here it is in their Bandcamp player:

PYLON LIVE is available for pre-order at chunklet.com, chunklet.bandcamp.com, iTunes, Amazon, and wherever digital music is sold.

Limited to 200 on magenta vinyl.
Limited to 200 on clear vinyl.
Unlimited on black vinyl.
Track List:

SIDE A
Working is No Problem
Driving School
No Clocks
Altitude
Gravity

SIDE B
Crazy
K
Cool
Italian Movie Theme
Buzz

SIDE C
Danger
Reptiles
Stop It
Feast On My Heart
Beep

SIDE D
M Train
Volume
Weather Radio
Party Zone
Batman

B-Sides in the Bins #22 – Cedar Rapids 2/22 & 2/23/08

Friday night Sherry was at a class, so I decided to hit Half Price Books before coming home from work. I also hit CD’s Plus on Saturday while I was out running some errands. I got some pretty cool stuff, including a CD that I was hoping to snag for a review from a label.

Prince – Purple Rain – 20th Anniversary (2 DVD, Warner Bros. 33533, 2004) ($9.98) One of the cool things about Half Price Books is that they get “cut outs” of CD’s and DVDs. They had two copies of this sealed and notched as cut-out. I had purchased not too long ago a copy of the 1997 release. I think it was in one of the bins at Wal-Mart. This was the “Standard Version” that was pan-and-scan 6×9. The 20th Anniversary version is 2 DVD with a second DVD dedicated to extras like a cool documentary on First Avenue where the live performances were filmed, a making of documentary with interviews with Dr. Z, Wendy and Lisa, Jimmy Jam and others. They also have a somewhat embarrassing “MTV Premiere Party” from the movie premiere complete with interviews of John “Cougar” Mellencamp, “Wierd Al” Yankovic, “rising star” Eddie Murphy, Wendy and Lisa, Little Richard who was in full Bible-thumping mode, and a self-important VJ Mark Goodman. An interesting view into the MTV promotional engine. Talk about non-sequitur interviewees! I guess Eddie Murphy and Little Richard make some kind of sense– but the “Wierd Al” and John Mellencamp interviews were certainly a stretch. Little Richard turned his interview into a thing about him and Murphy makes some funny digs about that. Mark Goodman goads Murphy unsuccessfully to do an impersonation of Prince, and then tries to get him to do an impersonation of James Brown. Eddie says, “I’ve already done that” and walks away. The bonuses also include all of the associated videos from Prince, The Time, and Apollonia 6. Wow, “Sex Shooter” was a really horrible song and even worse video.

As the story goes, Apollonia Kotero replaced Vanity (Denise Matthews) for the lead female part after Vanity broke up with Prince and went solo under a record contract with Motown. So, the remaining members of Vanity 6 (Brenda Bennett and Susan Moonsie) plus actress Patricia Kotero (renamed “Apollonia” by Prince) became Apollonia 6. The Vanity 6/Apollonia 6 girl group was an idea that Prince had for a while and of course created songs for. Apollonia 6 recorded one record tied in with the rest of the records associated with the movie and that was it. Kotero and group were supposed to open the tour with the Revolution and the Time but that never panned out. Interestingly, Prince apparently wrote “Manic Monday” which would eventually go to The Bangles (and likely specifically to Suzanna Hoffs) and “The Glamorous Life” which went to Sheila E. for the Vanity 6/Apollonia 6 projects. Coincidentally, both Vanity and Apollonia have become born-again Christians. Actually, Prince is too, I guess.

The movie is restored to Widescreen and remastered. The old release was really shoddy, and this one is a vast improvement. I see that there is a BluRay version of this available, too. I’ll probably upgrade this copy when I get a BluRay player.

Aimee Mann – Bachelor No. 2 (Or The Last Remains Of The Dodo) (CD, Superego Records, 2000) ($5.98) This is the album that followed the success of the soundtrack to Magnolia. It includes some of the songs from Magnolia– one as an instrumental. Aimee Mann is one of my favorite female musicians and her pairing with Jon Brion is perfect. The songs from Music from the Motion Picture Magnolia and this album would make a nice mix CD. Only “How Am I Different,” “Deathly,” and “You Do” are on both. “Nothing Is Good Enough” appears on the soundtrack as an instrumental.

This was a sealed copy or re-sealed. Aimee’s first release as an independent artist.

Mike’s Mann Mix for the Last Remains of the Magnolia

1. One (from Magnolia)
2. Momentum (from Magnolia)
3. Build That Wall (from Magnolia)
4. Deathly (from Magnolia or Bachelor No. 2)
5. Driving Sideways (from Magnolia)
6. You Do (from Magnolia or Bachelor No. 2)
7. Wise Up (from Magnolia)
8. Save Me (from Magnolia or Bachelor No. 2)
9. How Am I Different (Bachelor No. 2)
10. Nothing Is Good Enough (Bachelor No. 2)
11. Red Vines (Bachelor No. 2)
12. The Fall of the World’s Own Optimist (Bachelor No. 2)
13. Satellite (Bachelor No. 2)
14. Ghost World (Bachelor No. 2)
15. Calling It Quits (Bachelor No. 2)
16. Just Like Anyone (Bachelor No. 2)
17. Susan (Bachelor No. 2)
18. It Takes All Kinds (Bachelor No. 2)
19. Nothing Is Good Enough (Instrumental) (Magnolia)

Pylon – Gyrate Plus (CD, DFA 2181CD, 2007) ($5.98) This is one that I’d hoped would come to me as a promo for review, but at $5.98 used, it was worth buying. I was surprised to see its spine looking up at me from the bins. Pylon was one of the seminal Athens, GA bands and were contemporaries of the B-52’s. Started as a kind of side project for its members who really thought of themselves more of an art collective. They were inspired by the B-52’s very stripped down approach (at least in the early days). I think you can hear a lot of similarities in the tribal dance beats and angular guitars. I became familiar with Pylon through the documentary “Athens, GA Inside/Out” and their performance of “Stop It.” When I got to college in the late 80’s I met a guy named Tom Lally who had the Pylon records on vinyl. These were on the now-defunct DB Recs label. I had made a tape of Gyrate and Chomp. Pylon broke up after Chomp just as they were asked to open for U2. Pylon reformed in 1990 for Chain on the now defunct Sky Records. I bought Chain when it came out and the 1988 Hits compilation on DB Recs. Other than the few tracks on Hits, the tracks from Chomp have not seen re-release. I hope that DFA is planning to reissue Chomp as well.

Listening to these songs again for the first time since the Nineties, I can tell that my remedial bass-playing skills are very influenced by Pylon– especially the track “Volume” on Gyrate. Pylon got back together last year and played a handful of shows to promote this re-issue and there are a couple of them available via BitTorrent.

R.E.M. are fans of Pylon and covered “Crazy” on their Dead Letter Office album of B-Sides.

Click Here to visit Southern Shelter’s page of live mp3’s from Pylon.

Iron and Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog (CD, SubPop SPCD 710, 2007) ($7.99) I got this one from CD’s Plus. I was happy to have stumbled into this one. I was really impressed with Sam Beam’s collaboration with Calexico for the In the Reins EP. Shepherd’s Dog picks up nicely from there. Full instrumentals provided with help again from Joey Burns and Paul Niehaus. Very nice percussion one this record makes it kind of a toe-tapper for me. Sam’s voice is one of my favorites in indie rock today. Brilliant record, I can’t recommend it enough.



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