I have long felt that Pile is the gold standard for what passionate, original, dynamic guitar-driven indie rock can sound like. Rick Maguire’s vocals (and vocal acrobatics), mind-blowing guitar lines (and guitar deconstruction), and cryptic lyrics (which are descript but leave you ample room to assign your own meaning to them) at the very top of Indie’s Maslow’s Triangle. I went to their show with a friend in DC and said, “These guys should be bigger than Nirvana.” They are, I think, the next generation of “rock gods,” on par with a Radiohead.
Their latest album, All Fiction, follows Radioheads trajectory in a number of ways: not only in sound, but most of all, through their radical attempts at reinvention—something that Pile have certainly toyed with, but not in such a stunning departure from former works. The biggest differences are, less of a reliance upon guitars and more on keyboards, (like in the eery existentialist “Nude With A Suitcase”), more atmosphere and space in their music (check out “Gardening Hours”), and, even more dynamic vocal range than Maguire usually shows (on nearly every track).
“A collection of leaflets / holding a thought together / The pages start to split,” Maguire sing/growls on the song, “Link Arms.” In an album that deals with a healthy skepticism of the saviors of “Big Tech” and our society’s “positivity gurus,” Maguire is trying his best to get a handle on a tenuous reality, at best. He has said before that he wrestles with his thoughts on life, death, and human existence in song, finds songwriting a healthy place to do that, and the grappling lyrics is matched by the on-again-off-again wrestling in the sound.
That I think will be the biggest dividing line on who loves and who dismisses their latest album: the stark dynamics of sound in the record. It is a surprisingly spiritual album dealing with “flesh that is a sure as a fog,” and how we’ve been “groomed by a dream,” a question with more questions than answers. On “Blood,” as close to a spiritual manifesto as we might get from Maguire, he questions if life is all a joke the mind is playing on us. “But I’m still unconvinced that not even nothing exists.”
Good music, I think, creates as much tension as resolution, and the direction they’ve gone, sonically, soothes and agitates in equal measure. I think this is next level stuff for an already stellar band. It’ll be interesting to see where this leads Pile next, a criminally under appreciated band, in my opinion.
Pre-order All Fiction by Pile HERE
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