It turns out that, contrary to the popular belief, history isn’t actually written by the winners at all. Well, not musical history at any rate. It is more often written by the lucky, the popular or the best marketed, it is less about the righteous and more about the right time and the right place. And for every band that puts a scene or city on the musical map as it breaks out of the grassroots and on to the world stage, many more get left behind for future musical scholars to scratch their heads and argue over why they never got their proverbial fifteen minutes of fame. In the case of Athens, Georgia, if the likes of R.E.M and The B52s are to be found in many people’s record collections, it is likely that Pylon is not.
But if there are famously no second acts in American lives, it turns out that there sometimes is in American music and Pylon’s second act is the enticingly named Pylon Reenactment Society. Although the link between the two bands, on paper at least, is only vocalist Vanessa Briscoe Hay, her vocal style, wonderful textures and recognisable phrasing, for many listeners at least, defines both.
Though obviously there is more than that to connect the two bands; these new recordings of classic Pylon back-catalogue sit somewhere between a tribute, homage, celebration and rose-tinted nostalgia trip, but for all the right reasons. It also begs the question of… is it a cover band if Vanessa is singing? I mean paying tribute to a band you love is worthy enough but to simultaneously pay tribute to your younger self…how cool is that?
Additionally these new versions capture the same raw art school vibes and the punk “just do it” attitude that endeared them to the listener in the first place, the same jagged, staccato rhythms and choppy guitars but somehow with added energy and intensity. Some might ask why do we need new recordings of these classic songs, I would counter it with, why not? They only add to the musical canon, remind us that music isn’t a series of isolated events or recordings, that the story does go on, the second act does get to play out. But above all the e.p. is great, that’s the bottom line and in a world where everyone seems to be looking back to the past, these sessions remind us that often the bands who make it do so by standing on the shoulders of giants. Pylon shaped giants!