Pilot To Gunner are hardly the most prevalent band, its been eight long years since they last produced an L.P- 2004’s Get Saved. One theory for what they have been doing in that time is routinely injecting themselves with homemade shots of adrenaline mixed with Ian MacKye’s sweat whilst laboriously dissecting every aspect of songmanship to create the perfect juxtaposition between visceral aural attack and bare emotional tenderness.
With their latest record Guilty Guilty, Pilot To Gunner have melded together the best parts of several genres. They encompass everything that was great about post punk – cold spiky abrasiveness whilst at the same time showcasing an indie-inspired grasp on melodic intuitions, with each fighting for prevalence. Beneath the surface there lingers a post-hardcore desire to blow off steam in the most complex, and often, the most indirect way possible. This band is as likely to whip you into an arm-flailing frenzy as it is to claw its way into your chest cavity and pull at your heartstrings with a stealthy dose of emo-inspired subtle sensitivity.
Opener ‘L.A.’ is a stomping little punk number that grabs attention with its catchy chorus and crunchy powerchords which are sliced apart by the lead guitar’s piercing twang. Indications of the brilliance of this record are quick to appear with the sumptuous instrumental break on ‘High Command’ sounding like a post hardcore carnival, bongos pound in a kind of nihilistic celebration as a groove-laden bass gets the booty’s shaking before the anthemic chorus that has a distinct whiff of Make Do And Mend about it. ‘Execution Stylist’ is easily the most direct and pissed off song on the record; a relentlessly driving piece of music that builds in intensity and pace but thankfully manages to end before any band members suffer any serious haemorrhages. ‘If We Make It Back East’s’ painfully simple 3 note minimalistic coda shows the extent of the bands lean toward post-punk’s stark sterility, whilst a hung-spoken, half-sung vocal keeps things low key but no less engrossing. Meanwhile, the riff that opens ‘All The Lights’ is straight up Fugazi if their only concern was to get the kids a-jumpin’ and a-moshin’. ‘Cardiac Event Planner’ uses angelic female backing vocals- a brilliant touch and one that helps define the most sublime song on the album thanks in turn to some beautifully crafted production courtesy of J Robbins of Jawbreaker fame who’s influence is all over this album as well as many of Pilot To Gunner’s heroes and peers. What’s more, he is the perfect choice to meld together the bands old school throwbacks and twinklings of modern influence. The last half of the album shines a light on subtlety rather than outright aggression. Evidently they aren’t just a band focused on creating an uncompromising catharsis and ridding themselves of their demons by relentlessly screaming into the mic whilst furiously strumming at a guitar splattered in fresh specks of blood. Xylophone tinklings on ‘Let’s Do This Again’ are another example of the subtle incorporation of outside instruments, in this instance they permeate the high end with their shrill beauty in wonderful juxtaposition to the anger of the chorus. The electronic drum intro on ‘Son of the Downstate’ sounds like a totally different band a gives a quick glimpse of the group’s contemporary viability, not just their slightly more prominent revivalist tendencies.
Although this is a record with a serious yearning for times past, there is clear modern day awareness and an acceptance that the music Pilot To Gunner holds so dear is, after all, twenty-or-so years old. By carrying on the tradition of experimentation that their heroes in bands such as Fugazi were so focused upon, adding dashes of modern influence here and there and approaching it with such hunger and discontent, Pilot To Gunner has created a vital record. It manages to sound fresh and electrifying. It cuts like a razorblade, lyrically and aurally and sticks resolutely inside your head.
If you ever happen to encounter anyone who needs a bit of education in the 90’s underground sound (and spirit), don’t give them Fugazi’s Repeater or Quicksand’s Slip, give them Guilty, Guilty. For these eleven songs encompass the forward thinking nature of the genre, always opposed to being a watered down commodity and yet always open to experimentation and the incorporation of new sounds whilst creating songs that hit hard and leave you begging for more.
5 out of 5 high fives!