Disco Vietnam was the only band that mattered.
I am becoming the dinosaur. I am the fossil for the fuel. I used to be just like you, scouring for new music from young artists with fresh sounds. Now? Now the sharp, stabbing pain in my upper back is rivaled only by the dull ache in my lower back. My tastes have ossified into bone. My bones have lapidified into stone. I like rock music with guitars that go dzzzzzzzzzzzzzh and rap music with snares that go thwaaaap. I am impervious to charisma, allergic to recommendation, and steadfastly unfashionable, so if you want to capture my imagination, I wish you the very best of luck.
Only one band in recent memory has managed to successfully penetrate my impregnable defenses: Pile.
Pile is the only band that matters, to me anyways. They’re the only band I hear trying to make wrong notes right, painting themselves into corners to find more inventive new ways to escape.
A Hairshirt of Purpose is Pile’s sixth canonical album and their best, a corncob chronicle of self-imposed isolation possessed of a singular vision and fierce attention to detail. Dogs bark around the bend while an albatross circles above. The songs are beautiful and dreadful, composed but volatile.
It can take some time to situate oneself in guitarist Rick Maguire’s unconventional changes and unpredictable structures. You never quite know where he’s going to land, what the next chord might be or how loud he’s going to play it. His songs contain chapters, their intricate sentences embroidered with parentheticals, ellipses, colons, semicolons and dashes. A fingerpicked elegy on a broken acoustic guitar suddenly transmogrifies into a march of welcome for the army of the dead.
All this blood-soaked intensity is mercifully balanced by Maguire’s wry sense of humor; his lyrics always seem delivered with a bemused smirk, like they’re inside jokes he shares only with himself.
“Rope’s Length” is the leader in the clubhouse. Its menacing prologue resigns to a wandering dirge, until, as is true of all the best Pile songs, the disquieting tension surrenders to euphoric release. Maguire howls, “I want it at rope’s length if it’s not being used.”
For those in search of more spiritual definitions of punk rock, Pile is what’s possible. And if this old thunder lizard can discover a unique and original band in his emeritus years, perhaps it could happen again. And it may yet. I tend to doubt it though. Most music is very bad. Until then, Pile is the only band that matters, to me anyways.