Pylon's 1980 debut album, Gyrate, sounded like the work of the best sort of enlightened amateurs, musicians who were still fairly new to what they were doing and making the most of their simplicity, which worked brilliantly in their favor. 1983's Chomp was a somewhat different affair; Pylon were a more accomplished group with far more practical experience under their belts, and instead of the streamlined hands-off production of Bruce Baxter, the second album was produced by Chris Stamey and Gene Holder of the dB's, and engineered by Mitch Easter. As a consequence, Chomp sounds fuller and less minimal than Gyrate, with Vanessa Briscoe Hay overdubbing vocal harmonies on some tracks, keyboards popping up here and there, and Randy Bewley adding some new flash to his James Brown-style chicken scratch guitar. However, if Pylon were capable of doing more on Chomp, they also knew what not to do. The textures are more complicated, but the music still feels efficient, with no wasted gestures in the songs or performances. The grooves are as potent as ever, with bassist Michael Lachowski and drummer Curtis Crowe anchoring this music with lean, funky rhythms that sound edgy while still filling the dance floor. The added production polish and instrumental niceties add atmosphere without weighing down the songs, and reinforce how tuneful the material is despite their clean surfaces. "Crazy" is a beautifully ominous pop song that Pylon lacked the sophistication to pull off when they made Gyrate; if their early music was full of sharp angles, "Crazy" showed they could create something more accessible without compromising their vision in any way. Pylon would break up the same year Chomp was released, and it's fascinating to speculate where their broader musical range and studio smarts would have taken them if they'd stayed together (they would periodically play reunion shows, and they even cut a third album, Chain, in 1990.) However, if Chomp closed the book on Pylon's first era, it was a grand finale, an album that stands apart from their debut yet is just as brilliant in its own ways.
© Mark Deming /TiVo