Music Review: New album by Pylon Reenactment Society revives Pylon’s style of funky art punk

This cover image released by Strolling Bones Records shows "Magnet Factory" by Pylon Reenactment Society. (Strolling Bones Records via AP)

In 1980, Vanessa Briscoe Hay began the first tune on Georgia alt-rock band Pylon’s first album by singing, “Volume is pleasant. Volume is pleasant. Volume is pleasant.”

Today, making beautiful noise as the frontwoman for Pylon Reenactment Society, Briscoe Hay sings on “Magnet Factory,” the group’s debut album: “Sssshhhh! Don’t be so loud. We might draw a crowd.”

Ah, how rockers mellow with age. Or don’t.

Generations of bands and trends have come and gone since Pylon’s heyday as a rock influencer, but Briscoe Hay remains a distinctive, boundary-defying songwriter and singer, the kind who might scream, “Sending love to you.” She does that on “Messenger,” one of the ear-catching cuts on “Magnet Factory,” which will be released Friday.

It’s not a Pylon comeback, because Briscoe Hay is the only PRS member in both bands, although Pylon bassist Michael Lachowski handles the new group’s art direction. Pylon Reenactment Society’s lineup also includes guitarist Jason NeSmith, bassist Kay Stanton and drummer Gregory Sanders, and together they revive Pylon’s style of funky, minimalist art punk with personality and panache.

Amid the algorithm-driven din that now fills earbuds, “Magnet Factory” sounds as fresh as Pylon first did. That was in the early 1980s, when the quartet from Athens, Georgia, sold few records but created considerable buzz.

R.E.M. and Sleater-Kinney are among those who drew inspiration from Pylon, even though the group released only two albums before disbanding, then briefly reunited for one more album. Pylon Reenactment Society formed in 2014, and recorded “Magnet Factory” while Briscoe Hay was working on a handsome Pylon box set released in 2020.

That backstory frames PRS’ album of spasmodic, hyperkinetic tunes that seems of this anxious moment, combining angular arrangements and cryptic, nonlinear lyrics. Briscoe Hay punctuates her sing-speak delivery with primal yelps, yips and yells atop Stanton’s bustling bass and NeSmith’s off-kilter but hooky surf guitar. Like Pylon, PRS makes dance music for people who don’t dance well.

The album peaks at the midpoint with “Fix It,” distinguished by backing vocals from the B-52’s Kate Pierson. The song might be about a fractured relationship, or a broken washing machine. Equally exhilarating is “No Worries,” the title repeated like a mantra by Briscoe Hay, who splits the second word with a near-octave leap.

From start to finish, the band is an irresistible blend of simplicity and synchronicity, the music both edgy and therapeutic. It might draw a crowd.


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