Pile have proven once and for all that it doesn’t take a fancy major label or big budget production to make an incredible album, self releasing Magic Isn’t Real, a clear cut choice for one of the best albums of 2010. Growing up during the musical rich 90’s alternative rock scene, Pile wear their influences well, drawing from a dynamic range of bands incorporating the best elements of grunge, post-punk, and indie guitar rock. Imagine Nirvana, Barkmarket, Fugazi, Pavement, and early Modest Mouse blended together in a dingy basement loaded with explosives and you can begin to grasp the aural confines in which Pile operate. Magic Isn’t Real is unbelievably engaging, full of immediately crushing riffs, triumphantly harsh guitar tones, and wildly addictive vocal melodies at all times. The Boston trio (who play live as a quartet) waste no time during any of their songs, launching head first at all times into honest and brutally infectious tunes that only get better with every listen. Pile flexes their musical muscles often, able to effortlessly mix sludge with soaring melodies, scathing rawness with quirky catchiness, and blinding aggression with a keen sense of humor. This album has the makings of a classic; it’s really only a matter of how many are lucky enough to know of its existence. For all readers of Exploding In Sound, this is required listening. You can thank me, or better yet, thank Pile later.
The warm and fuzzy “Uncle Jill” opens the record with a warping vocal melody as vocalist/guitarist Rick Maguire lets loose with a delicate soaring intro before briefly whipping his vocals into a fury as the band rise into the oncoming crash. The song takes an unexpected turn with about a minute left as twinkling space rock guitars launch forward into creative polyrhythms and the pummeling rhythm section. “Came as a Glow” features a burly bass line from Matt Becker, rumbling deep beneath the shimmering melody. The low end heavy approach benefits Maguire’s vocals, as his woozy delivery navigates through the stomping riff work, engaging the listener as the guitars swirl continuously heavier. The band bash away into a thick stoner rock riff generously muddied with feedback. Drummer Kris Kuss’ bass kicks open “Pets” before the hazy vocals stumble into the mix with sludgy optimism. The guitars and bass intertwine for a stunning dirge rumble as Maguire’s vocals soar into a frenzied yelp. His scream is passionate but honest, more in line with Ian MacKaye or Kurt Cobain than anything remotely metal. Pile keep you on your toes as they switch into the mathy bridge of the song, opting for shifting time signatures before slamming you directly back into the wall. “Levee” is punchy and unapologetic, crushing rhythms balanced with a thunderous riff and aggressive vocals.
“#1 Hit Single” roars with the type of riff that could tear paint off the wall, and the vocals ooze with the same ferociousness. Becker and Kuss’ rhythm moves like a wrecking ball before dropping out to reveal an infectious guitar line that leads the song into new melodic territory. The punk rock spirit is in full bloom as the band switch back into demolition mode for the songs climatic ending. The sinewy vocal intro to “Two Snakes” sets the melodic tone for the noisy and anthemic track. Guitars and bass are warped into overdrive, trickling together as they experiment with loud and soft dynamics. “Octopus,” one of the records many stand out moments displays Maguire’s clean vocals at their catchiest, belting out with a grungy murkiness that will be stuck in your head for days to come. The rhythms contort within the often atonal melodies, bringing to mind the latter half of Fugazi’s brilliant career, creating their own unique sonic wall of sound that’s raw, heavy, dark, and ominous yet highly catchy and accessible.
A thick slab of low end unfolds into stinging guitars on “Away In A Rainbow!” another vicious showcase of Pile doing what they do best. Undertones of surf inspired guitars sit below the monstrous thudding mayhem in a manic cloud of smoke and highly controlled chaos. Maguire’s vocals shift between rough yelps and falsetto croons as the band play with time and space, bending the melodies as far as they can without breaking. “Don’t Touch Anything” sounds like a product of years and years of listening to the Pixies and Fugazi, and I seriously couldn’t be happier with the results. Dissonant, intense, and melodically stunning, Maguire’s vocals are on full display before the crack of the riff hits like a lead pipe to the head. The song ripples in and out with aggressive walls of guitars and Kuss’ booming drums, sharp sense of dynamics, and one of the best vocal melodies in recent memory. This is intelligent punk rock at its finest, and it kicks some serious ass. The rusty jangle of guitar noise that is “Sweat Lodge” makes for the perfect closer to the record, unruly and violent, short and to the point, this is not your typical easy release. Rather than dropping you off gently at the end of the ride, Pile chose to rattle your brain with one last hard charging blast, ending abruptly and leaving you ready for more.
Pile has created a monster with Magic Isn’t Real, a rowdy hybrid of everything we love about rock, strewn together brilliantly. The record is an absolute masterpiece, thrilling from start to finish, and the band is still fairly young. I can’t wait to see what the future will bring for Pile, magic may not be real but there is certainly something special going on here. One listen and you will be hooked, so go ahead and download yourself a copy because hearing is believing.
For more on Pile visit the following sites: