Album Of The Week

Album Of The Week: Pottery Welcome To Bobby’s Motel

Welcome To Bobby’s Motel is a nonsensical title for Pottery’s debut album, which also makes it a perfect title. It is, obviously, a greeting, which is fitting enough, but beyond that you don’t really know whether it’s supposed to be banal, or evocative, or what. It sounds like an inside joke, which it probably was. If you have ever been on the road with a band, then you know about all the idle hours on tedious straight stretches of highway or in shitty rest stop parking lots that get filled with aimless goofs and ongoing references. At a certain point, it becomes an internal language. At a certain point, it can actually become its own little reality. As it turns out, that’s exactly what Welcome To Bobby’s Motel promises and delivers. From the lurid comic book cover art on down, Pottery’s debut is one big giddy beckoning into their world.

When we first met Pottery, the Montreal quintet was purveying a kind of jangly, fried classicist indie that could be compared to bands like Parquet Courts. That was the sound they went for on last year’s No. 1 EP, but if you saw them touring behind that you might’ve felt as if you were encountering a completely different band. Live, Pottery’s five members — Paul Jacobs, Jacob Shepansky, Austin Boylan, Tom Gould, and Peter Baylis — had become one roiling, jittery organism. Funk and punk and disco crashed together, the band committed to relentless grooves.

That’s the sound they were building up to for Bobby’s Motel, which is one of those rare albums that does a convincing job of capturing the livewire energy of a band onstage. Clipped guitar rhythms meet warped vocal freakouts and gang-chant shoutalongs; the shapes of the songs tighten and tighten, worming their way into your body. It’s deeply physical music, but one from a strain of art-rock weirdos. It isn’t hard to hear Pottery’s touchstones on the album: Bobby’s Motel is like a synthesis of Talking Heads’ most frenetic tempos, Devo’s chirps and barks, and the B-52s’ Technicolor cartoon rock. But even in these days where “post-punk” gets thrown around a whole lot as a reductive umbrella encompassing a whole new wave of young guitar bands from Canada to Britain and Ireland, it’s not easy to find a band like Pottery — a band that’s drawing on a different corner of history and clearly just having an egregious amount of fun with it.

The album opens with a title track that works as a bit of overture and curtain rise — that smeared voiceover narration they incorporate again later, sputtering synths, all breaking down to an arid strut that leads right into the first proper song, “Hot Heater.” One of the singles — and one of the most memorable songs from those pre-Bobby’s Motel shows last year — “Hot Heater” is indicative of all the build-and-release endorphin rush qualities of the album, a teaser for just how infectious this stuff becomes. It’s like a business-up-front-party-in-the-back approach to songwriting: The first half works like one long simmering verse, until around two minutes in when the beat changes and the band proceeds to chant their way through, like, three different chorus ideas. It’s impossible to get out of your head.

When Pottery released “Hot Heater,” they talked about the idea of heat inspiring the album. (Other titles they considered included Hot Hot Hot and Sun Fever.) They talked about how they’d jokingly yell “Let’s make it hot!” before a take in the studio. And that’s a good way to sum up the album. The whole thing sounds music that was left to sizzle and melt under an unforgiving sun; the whole thing is full of sweaty, pent-up energy. You start to get lured into that world of Welcome To Bobby’s Motel, feeling like it must take place in some blank patch of desert out in the middle of the long tour stretch between Austin and Los Angeles. You start to imagine these songs as cathartic visions arising from dehydration in the dust, or Bobby’s Motel as a kind of rundown oasis nightclub refuge in the middle of the wasteland.

Pottery set this collection up as a sort of imagined alternate universe, and while there are some hints of serious ideas underneath it all — “Hot Heater” apparently references environmental concerns, while “Take Your Time” alludes to the darker sides of substance use — the biggest thematic throughline to Bobby’s Motel is just about what sounds good. I mean, lead single “Texas Drums” is basically a rhythmic workout in tribute to the primal pleasure of loud drums, its frantic first half blowing up into a hazy yet bouncy outro. In fact, while there are peaks — the aforementioned “Hot Heater,” “Texas Drums,” and “Take Your Time” are the album’s big unshakable moments — sometimes the album plays like one long unwavering funk bugout. Just as the band had become a singular organism onstage, the album is something you just have to let take over your mind and body for 40 minutes, one song’s breakneck pace and percussive vocal melodies and kaleidoscopic guitars tumbling into the next’s.

A lot of the songs serve this purpose, a devotion to propulsion over all else: “Under The Wires,” the mostly instrumental commercial break “Bobby’s Forecast,” even the slinkier “What’s In Fashion?” Along the way, Pottery do offer slight respites, and they are surprisingly poignant relationship songs. I might be the only person who hears Cream in “Reflection,” but either way it detours into a more straightforward ’60s psych reverie. Then at the end, the band maintains the summer sunshine tone with “Hot Like Jungle” but actually offers a bit of a cooldown. It’s no less humid than the rest of Bobby’s Motel, but it’s a love song that’s both tongue-in-cheek and oddly pretty, as Boylan’s roughened vocals bump up against swooning daydream synths.

Those outliers suggest that, even within the vibrant little world Pottery have created for themselves, there are still other scenes they have yet to show us. What we do have now is Bobby’s Motel, a reminder that post-punk has always been a broad catch-all, and that within it there’s room not just for cold machine aesthetics and apocalyptic concerns but also indulging the urge to simply throw a psychedelic, feverish dance party. And wherever you imagine that scene taking place — wherever you manage to find Pottery and their motel — it’s a joy to be invited.

Welcome To Bobby’s Motel is out 6/26 via Partisan. Pre-order it here.

Other albums of note out this week:

• Haim’s Women In Music Pt. III, which we’ll talk about more soon.
• Arca’s avant-garde pop star coronation KiCk i.
• Heavy shoegaze legends Hum’s first album in 22 years, Inlet, which dropped out
of nowhere today.
• Jessie Ware’s as-yet-unheard What’s Your Pleasure?
• Khruangbin’s weed cloud groove zone out, Mordechai.
• The Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin team-up Stygian Bough Volume 1.
• Gordi’s sophomore outing Our Two Skins.
• Bad Moves’ also-sophomore outing Untenable.
• The Dead Tongues’ rambling, rustic Transmigration Blues.
• Mikal Cronin’s new one, Switched-On Seeker.
• James Krivchenia’s ambient Big Thief side project A New Found Relaxation.
• Luke Temple’s new Art Feynman outing, Half Price At 3:30.
• Japandroids’ live album, Massey Fucking Hall.
• 박혜진 Park Hye Jin’s How Can I EP.
• Dirty Projectors’ latest installment in their EP series, Flight Tower.
• Jenn Wasner’s just announced/just released Flock Of Dimes EP Like So Much Desire.

Tags: Pottery