The titular track Welcome to Bobby’s Motel starts like a crazy corporate video soundtrack, or the overture to a madcap musical, bursting into life with an elongated drum roll and a frenetic pace that feels like hurtling down a zip wire wearing a rocket pack before an unexpected tempo change to a slow, chugging beat covered in fuzzed up guitar. Jump cut to ‘Hot Heater’ which starts as potpourri of rolling toms and percussion before springing into the same lurching swagger that Talking Heads had in their prime (throughout the album the vocals have the timbre of David Byrne or DEVO’s Mark Mothersbaugh). The mood is infectiously upbeat, and the chorus is catchy as hell. Two tracks into this album and I want to stop writing, push back the chairs and start jumping round the room. Song after song Pottery deliver the same kind of propulsive grooves that were around when bands like Parliament and Funkadelic influenced the art school crowd and thankfully ushered in beats outside the prison of 4/4 to the Indie scene.
Pottery are Paul Jacobs, Jacob Shepansky, Austin Boylan, Tom Gould, and Peter Baylis (although after searching for a while I couldn’t find out who does what) and it’s only when I read the press release that I saw they had bonded over bands like Orange Juice and Josef K that the penny dropped. This isn’t freezer-cold music like the dispassionate frostbite of bands like Television this is blazing hot happy-fuel; music that has St Vitus as its patron Saint. Throughout the album instruments squeak and jerk with spasms and musical ticks; tom-toms trill, wood block and cowbell fire like unexpected fireworks throughout. For example, on ‘Under the Wires’ there are swirling passages with haunted vocals but underneath (the wires, one presumes) the guitar swats away mosquitos and the bass undulates like a galloping herd of water balloons. ‘Bobby’s Forecast’ has the feel of those 80s neon-tinged dance tracks like Shep Pettibone’s Mix of Candido’s ‘Jingo’ but these seem sluggish in comparison to the break-neck speed of this album. ‘Down in the Dumps’ is a slow build of warping backwards sounds that lurches into life as a song that could be straight out of The Higsons* back-catalogue with a rich seam of palpitating joy running through it.
It’s only at the album’s mid-point, ‘Reflections’, we get a slow sorbet of a song so we can pause and catch our breath and knock back a Mojito as it’s a tropically lush song that builds real estate on Robbie Robertson’s ‘Somewhere Down The Crazy River’ but ends up a grand piano short of being a Talk Talk song and gives the becalmed feel of a night time ride in a convertible through a humid coastal town. Break over, batteries recharged, we are fired out of this night-time sojourn into the piercing light of ‘Texas Drums Pt I & II’, a cross-eyed and painless romp with choruses that should be t-shirt slogans: “All my best friends pick up drum sticks” and “Won’t you play those fucking drums for me”. ‘Ny Inn’ is where I hear that Josef K influence and ‘What’s In Fashion’ crafts their own atonal jerk-pop take on DEVO circa ‘Jocko Homo’. I was convinced I had heard Pottery maximum speed but ‘Take Your Time’ finds that extra burst of NOx to propel us through the penultimate track careening off the cliff before we crash into the finale, ‘Hot Like Jungle’ which slows our landing into the swaying, bold, major chords of a ballad with crescendo drums and soaring vocals leaving us sated and ready to retire to our motel room where we leave the curtains open so we drift off to sleep watching the stars in the desert twinkling.
It’s great work by producer Jonathan Schenke. He has managed to coral the crackling energy of Pottery and everything has a place in the mix but there’s that extra dimension of good production he has remained true to: capture and enhance what is already great about a band and dial it up until the colours bloom. One of the sometimes-forgotten elements of 80s indie was how many of the bands had a sense of humour and warmth about them and it seems that Pottery are not afraid to release the hounds of fun and give us fully caffeinated music that is both art-pop, artful and funky. I am Pottery’s vessel. I was but clay and they have moulded me on their wheel into a devotee that wants to pick up drumsticks and play those fucking drums until I am completely funked up.
Review by Paul F Cook
*The Higsons featured Charlie Higson of Fast Show fame and it’s worth checking out tracks like ‘I Don’t Wanna Live with Monkeys’ or ‘Where Have All The Club-a-Go-Gos, Went, Went’