Pyramid Of The Sun‘s Nov. 9 release date comes a year and one day after the tragic death of Maserati drummer Jerry Fuchs, who died after falling down a Williamsburg elevator shaft. It’s been a year of re-evaluation and labored decisions for the members of the Athens, Ga., instrumental group. Most important, they had to decide whether or not they should remain a band and finish this album. We can be thankful that they did: Pyramid Of The Sun finds Maserati at its absolute peak, and it also serves as a beaming memorial for Fuchs and his laser-precise style of drumming.
Before Fuchs joined the band, for 2007’s Inventions For The New Season, Maserati could easily have been lumped in with the loud-quiet-loud post-rock crowd. But there was always something more curious about their songwriting, something that suggested they were more interested in finding twists and turns in their melodies rather than bashing them into the ground repeatedly. It was an admirable take on a well-weathered genre, even if it did not lead to worldwide successes. On Inventions, Fuchs became their secret weapon, injecting into the sound the dance influence of his work with !!! and the Juan McLean. Combined with the remaining members’ emerging krautrock and psych influences, you had an album that opened the door slightly to a new sound, but didn’t dive in all the way.
Pyramid represents the completion of Maserati’s evolution, and it’s their most satisfying album for that exact reason. It’s an eight-song platter of hypnotic grooves with a buffet of hooks provided by guitarists Coley Dennis and Matt Cherry, whose parts vary from synthetic noodling to gauzy wipes of psych guitar. When the tracks aren’t locked into a mid-tempo disco-informed stomp, as they are on the title track, “They’ll Suffer No More From Thirst,” and “Oaxaca,” they’re infused with a dangerous sense of propulsion. On “They’ll Suffer No More From Hunger,” Dennis’s and Cherry’s guitars practically snarl their riffs, as they each take turns laying down earworms over one of Fuchs’s and bassist Chris McNeal’s most aggressive rhythm tracks. By evolving the way they did, Maserati has managed to evade easy description. It’s krautrock for the masses, dance music for the psych set, prog for the techno head.
The album closes with “Bye M’Friend, Goodbye,” which was the last song Fuchs wrote and recorded with the band before his untimely passing. Although its completed form has been framed as the most explicit tribute to Fuchs on the album, it is the furthest thing from somber, rocking an insistent downstroke bass part and a series of statement-making, sunsoaked guitar parts. It also sums up why this album is such a success: Instead of wallowing indefinitely, the remaining members of Maserati carried out their friend’s vision in a triumphant manner. In recent interviews, Dennis has stated that the band’s future is unclear following the tours supporting this album. If this is the end for Maserati, it comes not with a period but with a neon exclamation point.