Pygmy Lush - Old Friends
Record Label: Lovitt Records
Release Date: April 1, 2011
In 2001, one of the most intensely savant hardcore bands released one of the most underrated records of the early millennium during the rise of what now is deemed in loose terms as post-hardcore. Pg. 99 released Document #8. Sorrowfully missed by purists and "kids who missed the moment" types like myself, Document #8 is a cathartic structure of passion, aggression and beautiful execution. While the band left its mark on the hardcore scene for years to come, it's been quite a decade since then for its members.
Three of the band's members (Chris Taylor, Mike Taylor and Johnny Ward) went on to form Pygmy Lush. With the release of Bitter River, the band's debut, we were all still rocking along a bit longer. Most importantly, Bitter River showed a bit of a soft side of its members. An uneven record, it would be the release of Mount Hope that was the step in the right direction for the band. Stripped down and a soothing ride, three ferocious hardcore greats took a complete turnaround and beautifully pulled it off with the help of some friends.
With the release of Old Friends, Pygmy Lush have crafted the simple comfort of a gentle wind into the fullest breeze on a warm autumn day. The expansion of song writing on the record is the most rewarding factor this time around. "Yellow Hall" is the opening example. Not only does the recording not sound as flat - Ballou stepped it up on this one - the instrumentation and layering sound much more full. You're not just hearing something good, you're wrapped in something great as it absorbs the audible nerve in stereo. The seasick anthem of "In a Well" is a driving one that scratches at hopelessness and ambition as Chris Taylor's voice becomes distant and scratched while he's singing "Start climbing," over and over again.
It's the blooming numbers like "Yellow House" where the band has reached new heights. The post-rock build of "I'll Wait With You" is an angelic high point on the album. The closing "Pals" finds the band carrying out one final release of orchestration. It feels like you're watching them in a small dive somewhere, shaking all the alcohol off the shelves. Casual listeners will cling to the upbeat tempo of "January Song," "Admit" and "Chance," as they're uneven cards in the deck, but don't take away from the album's appeal as a whole.
Getting through "Penny on My Deathbed" is disheartening and exquisite. The piano's tone and color is quite perfect against Taylor's defeated voice. Even without Taylor's countered vocals, the music's capturing minstrel style of post-rock is flooring. With Old Friends coming out ten years after Document #8, it's a shining example of how shifting into a new execution doesn't mean losing the power and passion and especially the smarts of what made you a great musician in the first place.