Pylon: Chomp (1983)

Pylon are one of those bands held in great reverence by music critics and indie bands alike. They're definitely on the more challenging side, so I won't oversell them here; but there is no doubting their influence, and they do hold up as a solid example of intriguing, bracing early post-punk. And since their brief discography, in and out of print over the years, is now back up on Spotify and headed for a remastered box set later this year, figured they were worth a check-in.

Along with the B-52's (and later R.E.M.), Pylon were a key part of the Athens, GA late 70s/early 80s indie scene. Their 1980 debut, Gyrate, offered jagged, angular, guitar-driven art-rock that blended Gang of Four, Altered Images, Television, and early Feelies, though with some jangly pop touches that would show up in bands like the dB's and, of course, R.E.M. and their ilk. The music was distinguished in part by Vanessa Ellison's (later Vanessa Briscoe Hay) forceful yelp, somewhere between Patti Smith and X-Ray Spex's Poly Styrene, more spoken word than sung.

They softened the sound a bit on Chomp, their final album until a 1990 one-off reunion release, adding a little more melodic jangle to offset the staccato punch, while Ellison/Briscoe Hay toned down some of her bite. The album (and the band) are probably best remembered for "Crazy," later covered by R.E.M. to great effect, though the pieces are all there on the rawer-sounding original. It's a great song, something that makes me wish they had stuck around a little longer and pursued that side of their songwriting.

Chomp does offer a few other tuneful moments in line with "Crazy," particularly on the shimmering "No Clocks," as well as the moodier "Buzz" and the surfy instrumental "Italian Movie Theme." Others, like the art-damaged jittery romp "Beep" and the wiry, insinuating "Yo Yo," reprise Gyrate's energetic weirdness, though some of the songs aim for a more minimalist sound.

Here's the original video for "Beep":
Here's an audio rip of "Crazy":
...and an audio rip of "No Clocks":
 And here's Briscoe Hay singing "Crazy," backed by a reunited R.E.M. (minus Stipe), at a 2019 benefit show: