by Chris Hatch
Pottery’s debut full-length album is a clammy, feverish collection of relentless psych-funk. It’s the sound of clothes sticking to damp skin, of sweat trickling down the back, and of steam rising from a mass of exhausted, heaving bodies. From its fraught, opening drum roll, you can’t help but be swept up in its dry, dehydrated, delirium – the doors are locked, the air-conditioning is broken, and you aren’t leaving until they say so. Over eleven songs, you barely get chance to catch your breath, and you leave feeling exhausted in the most invigorating of senses.
Based on an in-joke, the album is centred around the titular Bobby and his mythical motel. It’s a concept that Pottery identify with strongly – in an emblematic press release, that’s as breathless as their record, they explain how Bobby is all of us, and his motel is life itself… or at least it’s the part of life that we want to escape to. It’s that ‘Light Up Gold’ feeling that Parquet Courts sang about on their breakthrough record. And this isn’t the only thing Pottery share with the aforementioned New Yorkers – because, along with producer, Jonathan Schenke, they also borrow the sense of rhythm and rapidity that Parquet Courts explored on Wide Awake! That mixture of psychedelia and charged funk bleeds through each song on the album. On the scorching Hot Heater, for example, a staccato, chain-gang verse makes way for a chorus that finds Talking Heads clashing with the sound of afro beat – lead singer Austin Boylan echoing David Byrne’s shaky, idiosyncratic vibrato on its bluesy, humid, sticky refrain.
These rampant explorations are what really power the album along. The quirky, poppy Under The Wires eventually morphs into a cranky, urgent chorus, and then, again, into a piston-driven juggernaut of a final third, while the storming Bobby’s Forecast sees Pottery fall into the kind of moreish groove that compels the body to sway and the head to nod. It’s a mix of Orange Juice and James Brown, as the band become possessed by the spirit of the funkmasters of old – Boylan taking on the role of band leader and party orchestrator; in between yells of ‘come on!’, and ‘funk!’, he begs Paul Jacobs to ‘give him the drums’, before imploring the rest of the band to ‘break the drummer’s arm’… or is it ‘break the drummer’s heart’? It’s hard to make out the words, but the sentiment is totally and utterly clear, as Jacobs presses on with hi-hat snicks, snare rolls, and exhilarating drum fills.
Singles, Texas Drums Pt I & II and Take Your Time further showcase Pottery’s penchant for parched, hyperactive 70s psych rock – the first half of Texas Drums in particular proving that at times all you need is a simple idea and a wagonload of energy and purpose to get your point across – ‘won’t you play those fucking drums for me?’ sing the entire band, on a frantically joyful track that conjures up the spirit of Fat White Family, King Gizzard, and even elements of early Roxy Music. But it’s on midway point, Reflection, and album-closer, Hot Like Jungle, that the band put forth a side that demonstrates the depth of their songwriting; the former sees the band take up the persona of some sultry, hypnotic lounge band; Boylan’s voice soaked in a magnetic mysticism, while the latter is a steamy, alluring love song – its spiralling, 60s-influenced, wide-open chorus benefitting from the band slipping out of their tight groove, and letting everything breathe.
Welcome To Bobby’s Motel inhabits a similar space to The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, or Hunter S Thompson’s Fear And Loathing. But the strength of Pottery’s songwriting is enough to stack up against the enigmatic world they’ve created. They’ve managed to pull off the feat of writing an album that feels as strong as a whole, as it does when tracks are picked out individually. As far as debuts go, it’s a brilliantly well-rounded journey through Pottery’s sweltering world – it feels like the very zeitgeist of something special, and as the walls drip with sweat, the air conditioning unit whirrs away uselessly, and the partygoers slip away with that grubby, unclean feeling of coming down from whatever they’ve been on, it doesn’t feel like the party is ending at Bobby’s Motel – it feels like it’s only just begun.
Secret Meeting score: 89
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