Montreal-based rascals Pottery sit right in the middle of the perfect indie rock Venn diagram. They borrow – successfully, I might add – from all of the great bands, and put all of their loaned sounds to fantastic use. Pottery’s main songwriters, Austin Boylan and Jacob Shepansky – joined in the band by Peter Baylis, Paul Jacobs, and Tom Gould – make prudent and clever adjustments to what could have been a pedestrian sound in lesser hands. Their wiry, spindly, rickety riffs draw from Television and (especially) Talking Heads; their wacky, hare-brained melodic ideas and electric-shock rhythms are as pleasingly insistent and joyously relentless as anything you’d find on an album by The B-52s, Devo, Gang of Four or Parquet Courts.
Despite obvious sonic parallels and a blatant reliance on these stylistic antecedents, Pottery revel in their derivative nature, and end up creating something fresh from a heap of stale ingredients. This must be because their sound encompasses the entire history of glamorous indie rock ‘n’ roll – from March 12th, 1967 when Lou Reed was waiting for his man, through the 70s and CBGBs, the 80s and New Wave, the 90s and college rock… it’s all here, and all played with love, just like it was on last year’s debut EP ‘No. 1’ (go listen, it’s worth it).
What also helps this album succeed is that across these eleven songs, there’s barely a wasted moment, and many brilliant surprises. Glowing anthem ‘Hot Like Jungle’ sounds (to these ears at least) like the earnest, airy indie once peddled by Orange Juice, or even Razorlight. I don’t know why it came as such a surprise to hear that in the song: Johnny Borrell and co. were once students of the same game Pottery are playing. Pottery just seem to be playing it better.
‘Reflection’ has pleasing echoes of Crowded House, and John Cale’s softer side, and plays out with a gradually rising, palpably growing tension that just explodes into doomy fireworks after two minutes, before the band gradually climb back down the walls and close the song out in the same way it started. But if you’re after weird sonic callbacks, then your winner is ‘What’s in Fashion’, which sounds, unbelievably, like Adam and the Ants’ early work.
‘Hot Heater’ borrows heavily from Talking Heads, particularly the oddball skronk of their first three records (the rhythms aren’t quite as dynamic or rubbery as anything on ‘Remain in Light’, and I don’t think they were ever intended to be). ‘Bobby’s Forecast’ is another cut that leans heavily on the Talking Heads template, but never at the expense of fun or funk.
‘Under the Wires’ is chunky, muscular post punk not a million miles away from the first couple of Echo & the Bunnymen records, it’s just overlaid with a pastel-shade, plinky-plonk guitar layer to soften the intensity, and concluded by a majestic disco-punk freakout. ‘Texas Drums Pt I & II’ is clearly the masterpiece of the album, the pièce de résistance, with its gang vocals, sleazy grind and sexy breathlessness pushing it into the realms of the kind of joyful racket peddled by ex-tour mates Viagra Boys, or Warmduscher and their filthy brethren.
‘Welcome to Bobby’s Motel’ is a superb, lovingly crafted set from a band who have clearly done their homework. That’s it, the essence of the album: ‘Welcome to Bobby’s Motel’ shows that Pottery are a great band who are borrowing from even greater ones, with the promise that they themselves with one day join those rarefied ranks of the true genre favourites, and create something distinctive enough to gift to the next generation of indie bands. Super stuff.
Recently, we wrote that indie can still be made great with heart and humanity – and ‘Welcome to Bobby’s Motel’ has both, and has them in spades. This is how you do it.
Words: Ross Horton
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