Pylon Reenactment Society
Pylon Reenactment Society is a unique creature. The band features original Pylon vocalist Vanessa Briscoe Hay, but Pylon is and always will be four people: Briscoe Hay (vocals), Michael Lachowski (bass), Curtis Crow (drums), and Randall Bewley (guitar). They put out two highly influential post punk albums in the 1980s: Gyrate and Chomp. They released Chain during an early ’90s reunion, but further reunions became impossible when Bewley died of a heart attack in 2009. So the Pylon Reenactment Society isn’t Pylon.
Pylon Reenactment Society is not a tribute band, although they do play Pylon material. Pylon Reenactment Society formed in 2014 as part of Art Rocks Athens. Pylon obviously could not play the festival, but Briscoe Hay put together an ensemble to recreate the Pylon experience, enlisting guitarist Jason NeSmith and bassist Kay Stanton (Supercluster, Casper & The Cookies), and Gregory Sanders (Casper & The Cookies) on drums. Over the ten years they have been together, they have done what musicians are inclined to do: they jammed and came up with new songs and that brings us to Magnet Factory.
So Pylon Reenactment Society is something new, although they do have a lot of Pylon’s DNA. “Spiral” opens the disc with the ghostly chant, “I am nothing / I’m here.” To me, it feels like a prayer acknowledging the ghosts of Athens past. “Educate Me” follows with the distinctive heavy bass and scrawling guitars Pylon was known for. Briscoe sings, “educate me / it’s not a crime,” and it makes me think of the shenanigans going on in Florida and elsewhere, where teachers are under attack for teaching anything Moms For Liberty might object to. Yeah, be fearless, educate me!
Briscoe Hay and Kate Pierson of the B52’s have been friends for 40 years now, and “Fix It” is the first time they’ve recorded together. With typically oblique lyrics, Vanessa asks about fixing material things and interpersonal relationships. “I know I’m in trouble again / I want to fix it … I can’t afford to replace it / I have to fix it.” The song bubbles to a joyous conclusion, with the ladies having learned to fix things.
While most of the songs are original to PRS, they do pull some deep cuts off from the Pylon box set. They do versions of “3×3” and “Heaven.” “Heaven” has a great echo-drenched guitar solo. As Briscoe Hay says, “If we’re gonna do a cover, we might as well cover Pylon.”
The album ends with another solemn track, “I’ll Let You Know.” The song is quiet with a meditative feel. It’s a song about endings: endings of shows, endings of relationships, maybe even endings of life. In a calm and reassuring voice, Vanessa sings, “Before I go / I’ll let you know.” It’s a haunting premonition or maybe a promise.
One final note. The graphic design for Magnet Factory is the work of Pylon bassist Michael Lachowski. I think it’s cool that he’s involved in the project at some level, even if it’s not musically.