Friday, January 24, 2014

Pants Yell!: A retrospective

The Pants Yell! fan group on Facebook was called Pants Yell! have changed my life for the better! Let them change yours!

That's the depth of feeling that people had for this quiet, bookish indie pop band from Boston.

Nevertheless, Wikipedia deleted its article on Pants Yell!, claiming that the band failed to meet Wikipedia’s notability guidelines. “Never released an album on a notable label,” the editors said. “Insufficient 3rd party notability.”

That really pissed me off.

For one thing, I consider Slumberland to be a notable label, and so does Wikipedia, because Wikipedia has a long article about Slumberland. (Slumberland released the final Pants Yell! album, Received Pronunciation, in 2009.)

For another thing, as a third party, I consider Pants Yell! to have great third-party notability. In 2009, I said that if Pants Yell! played at NYC Popfest, I’d go. They did, and I went. I traveled from Bloomington, Indiana, to New York to see them. Fans rarely fly across the country to see non-notable bands perform.

I’m glad I went, because I got to see the band play at the Bell House in Brooklyn at one of their last shows before they broke up. I wasn’t thrilled that they played only one old song, and that their hard-rocking performance was more Josef K than Go-Betweens, but I was still happy to be there.

After Pants Yell! broke up, singer/songwriter/guitarist Andrew Churchman started a new band called CUFFS that has released a handful of recordings. They’re pretty good. 

But I count Pants Yell! among my favorite bands, so here’s my short annotated discography of a great, notable band:

Our Horse Calls (Best Kept Secret, 2003)

The first Pants Yell! album was released on cassette only. It’s a sonogram of Pants Yell! in the womb: a primitive, homespun affair with cheesy keyboards, out-of-tune guitars, and a lot of songs that don’t have choruses.

Songs for Siblings (Asaurus, 2004)

Songs for Siblings shed the coarseness and clatter of Our Horse Calls to sustain the na├»ve, melancholy, and sensitive vibe that I think of as the Pants Yell! sound. The album has some strong songs—it’s a great leap forward from the cassette debut. Contains a re-recording of “Onward, Sailboat” from Our Horse Calls.

(A lot of the Asaurus catalog, by the way, can be downloaded for free on Bandcamp.)

’83 in ’05 EP (Paper Cities, 2005)

The title track apparently updates “’83 in ‘03” from Our Horse Calls500 copies were pressed. I don’t have this record. 

Recent Drama (Asaurus/Paper Cities, 2006)

Recent Drama is the first great Pants Yell! album. This album showed that Pants Yell! could become an object of abiding indie-pop adoration like the Go-Betweens or Felt. Melodically, lyrically, instrumentally, this album delivers. “Your Feelings Don’t Show” is awesome and disproves Robert Forster’s second rule of rock and roll: "The second-last song on every album is the weakest.”

Live in a Living Room EP (2007, Soft Abuse)

Only 60 of these lathe-cut, 4-song EPs were made, and they came with a CD-R of demo recordings, a button, and a poster. The EP includes the song “Southend-on-Sea” from Recent Drama and “The Not-So City Life” from the ’83 in ’05 EP. The CD-R included the band’s version of the Bob Seger song “Still the Same,” which is just weird. I tried to buy this, but it had already sold out.

Alison Statton (Soft Abuse, 2007)

Named after the lead singer of Young Marble Giants and Devine & Statton, Alison Statton is my favorite Pants Yell! album. I can’t even guess how many times I’ve listened to this album.

In a discussion of music and autobiographical memory, Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis said, “Music has this special ability to get welded with things that happen to us in our lives.” Alison Statton is an album that is welded to me. I listened to it a lot during a tumultuous time, and it was like a friend that I could lean on.

I loved the horns. And the guitars on "Magenta and Green." Some of the songs had a harder edge, which was okay with me in moderation. Great lyrics.   

Received Pronunciation (Slumberland, 2009)

I was so disappointed in this album when it came out, because it didn’t meet my expectations. At the time, I thought it rocked harder than I wanted it to, and I expected the band’s instrumental arrangements to become more elaborate, like Alison Statton did with the horns. Instead, it seemed raw.

Then the band broke up and that was that.

Years later, I played through all of my Pants Yell! albums while I painted my house, and I listened to Received Pronunciation again for the first time in years. It didn’t match my memory of it at all. The album sounds like good ol’ Pants Yell!, and the guitar playing on “Got to Stop" is impressive. Maybe I was just in a bad mood when I bought it.

Stray tracks (that I know of):

“Tram #7 to Heaven” – OAsaurus Records EP Club #10It's a sleepy rendition of the Jens Lekman song and is similar in tone to Lekman’s original.

“B.O.C. Theme,” "Public Gardens," "Still the Same" – On the Asaurus compilation You Already Have Way Too Many CD-Rs.

“When Your Friends Aren’t Looking” – On the Japanese version of Alison Statton and also the Slumberland anthology Slumberland Records: The First 20 Years. A good song that sounds like a demo recording. A nice find for anyone who loves Alison Statton and wants more. 

1 comment:

  1. This was an awesome article (and band). I actually tried adding them to Wikipedia years ago. I think that was my article which got deleted unfairly.