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      Pylon

      Gyrate

      (CD - New West #NW 6493CD)

      Review by Mark Deming

      Athens, Georgia may have been the breeding ground for the B-52's, but in 1978 it was, for the most part, still a sleepy college town with few places for bands to play when Pylon began to cohere. (It's worth remembering that the B-52's had almost exclusively played house parties before moving to New York and becoming a sensation.) Like more than a few great and original groups, Pylon came together without much of a support system or many firsthand influences; they were young people creating their own art and making their own fun with it. While it wasn't their first release (the epochal "Cool"/"Dub" single preceded it by seven months), 1980's Gyrate caught Pylon on tape when they were still clearly fascinated with their own creative possibilities, though they were tight enough to sound elemental and straightforward rather than amateurish. The skittery chiming of Randy Bewley's guitar and the expressive whisper-to-a-scream report of Vanessa Briscoe Hay's vocals give this music plenty of brains, and the lean, minimal rhythms generated by bassist Michael Lachowski and drummer Curtis Crowe lend it all a strong, muscular body. At a time when America was just falling out of love with disco, Gyrate was a reminder that there was more than one way to make music for dancing. As smart as this music was, it was also fun and engaging in a way that many of their peers and followers were not. Gyrate is full of joy and subtle, surreal wit, and if it sometimes sounds like the work of arty grad students, they're still grad students who want to cut loose and get in the groove, and that's exactly what they do. Gyrate is a classic touchstone of the American underground scene of the '80s, and it sounds as fresh, challenging, and exciting as the day it was released. R.E.M. would become a lot more famous, but Pylon were the band that made the world aware that there was something remarkable happening in Athens, and this was their first triumph.

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