Pylon never seemed destined for much. When they began as a group in the late ‘70s, their sole purpose was to get written up in New York Rocker and then disband, and at one time they seriously considered using a parrot as a lead singer. So in some respects it’s surprising that they’ve become the kind of act worthy of loving reissues to ensure that their albums actually get released on CD. So here’s Chomp More, the first ever CD pressing of the Athens, Ga., band’s sophomore album. It’s the second Pylon reissue helmed by DFA, which re-released the group’s debut, Gyrate, back in 2007.
Inauspicious beginnings aside, Pylon quickly became the only American answer to the bristling post-punk of lions like Wire and Gang of Four, adding a dance-rock bend to the art-rock deconstructions their British contemporaries had been toying with since punk went boom. Pylon took the formalist obtuseness to another level via their lyrics; early singles had empty sloganeering (“Everything Is cool,” Vanessa Hay would tell her audience, sounding not entirely convinced), and Chomp’s lead track has an ode to the letter “k” (“K”), according to Hay, an important letter in Scrabble. And that’s about as normal as their lyrics get.
Chomp, originally released in 1983 via DB Records, is the most accessible Pylon album, with the band nearly approaching pop territory via soaring tracks like “No Clocks,” “Crazy” (a song their pals R.E.M. famously covered to help Pylon out) and “Reptiles,” and adopting a Talking Heads-esque twitch for “Gyrate” and “M Train.” But to the end (Pylon broke up (for the first time) following Chomp) Pylon were distinctly unique, with bassist Mike Lachowski tapping out Morse code warnings (at least we can assume) and guitarist Randall Bewley (who died this year) delivering high-wire riffs that sounded both detached and intimately intertwined with the songs going on beneath them.
Like the reissue of Gyrate, Chomp More comes packaged with a handful of rarities and a bang-up remastering job. Given that the entire album is essentially a “rarity,” the real point here is ensuring that Pylon are at least remembered, which is a different aim than the canonization/wealth building aim of most reissues. Pylon are the missing link between British post-punk and American indie-rock, and at least now, thanks to DFA, they have the ability to be recognized as such.