• Pylon
  • Gyrate (DB) 1980 
  • Pylon!! EP (Armageddon) 1980 
  • Champ (DB) 1983 
  • Hits (DB) 1989 
  • Chain (Sky) 1990 

One of the new South’s most revered and influential bands, this Athens, Georgia quartet came on like a cross between the B-52’s and Gang of Four. Atop thin, almost brittle metallic guitar, muscular bass and no-nonsense drums — which all mesh into stark but inviting dance rhythms — Vanessa Briscoe artlessly shouts/talks/gargles celebrations of life and innocent warnings/wonderings about restrictions on freedom. Though limited in material — the first two records contain about four really good songs all told; the rest are merely okay or repetitive — Pylon is fraught with possibilities for development. The 10-inch Pylon!! EP has two of their best, including the dance-club staple, “Cool.”

Promise notwithstanding, Chomp (produced by Chris Stamey and Gene Holder, both then dB’s) was the quartet’s swansong. More ambitious in scope, the record incorporates a psychedelic drone in spots; Pylon sometimes sounds less anxious and strident than before. The album includes both melodic (!) sides of a great preceding single (“Crazy” b/w “M-Train”) and other cool slices (“Beep,” “Gyrate”) of floor-shaking art.

After a half-decade of inaction, the original Pylon reunited and played a mid-’88 show in preparation for a full-fledged resurgence. Hits, a 20-track compilation of nearly all their work to date (including both sides of the 1979 “Cool” b/w “Dub” single), cleared the decks with digital sound and set the stage for the band’s first new album in seven years.

While retaining the band’s traditional bite, Chain gets more melody and texture from Briscoe- Hay’s singing and Randy Bewley’s sharp guitar jabs. The rhythm section cedes not an inch of dancefloor, but very few of the new songs build obsessively on a single chord. (Actually, three seems to be the optimum chord quantity here.) As a result, “Look Alive,” “There It Is,” “This/That,” “Crunch” and others are memorable for more inviting reasons than the old band’s tense sonic harangues. If maturity has softened Pylon’s edge somewhat, Chain is still a strong link (sorry) to the past.

Pylon reunited again for a show in 2004 and has continued to perform.

[Jim Green / Ira Robbins]