Welcome to Bobby’s Motel, and welcome indeed, to 11 tracks full of ear-bleeding eclecticism. The debut album from Pottery arrived June 26 on CD, digital, and limited edition hot dog yellow vinyl. Nice. So who are Pottery? And who is Bobby? Their record label, Partisan, tells us what we need to know:
Enter Pottery. Enter Paul Jacobs, Jacob Shepansky, Austin Boylan, Tom Gould, and Peter Baylis. Enter the smells, the cigarettes, the noise, their van Mary, their friend Luke, toilet drawings, Northern California, Beatles accents, Taco Bell, the Great Plains, and hot dogs. Enter love and hate, angst and happiness, and everything in between. Beginning as an inside joke between the band members, Bobby and his “motel” have grown into so much more. They’ve become the all-encompassing alt-reality that the band built themselves, for everyone else. So, in essence, Bobby is Pottery and his motel is wherever they are. — Partisan Records
On paper, Pottery don’t sound like my cup of tea. They do indeed have flavours of Talking Heads, Devo, Gang of Four, The Rapture, Hot Chip even a little bit of The Divine Comedy, all of which I like, but don’t love. But Pottery exist as their own entity; Pottery sound just like themselves. Which in turn will make this debut one of those that music writers will uncontrollably make comparisons to in music that is to follow—it’s a classic in its own right.
Picture the scene: It’s late, you’ve just checked into Bobby’s Motel after a long day of travel. It’s kind of opulent but gaudy, red velvet drapes and gold plated picture frames decorate the communal spaces, and cigarette smoke fills the air. You make your way to your room, shattered from not just the day’s events but the events of the whole world. Do you want to sleep, or is there a better way to relax and unwind? Let’s go to the bar for a nightcap. Before you know it, you’re in a haze, and at the best party you’ve ever been to. “Just let yourself go,” the smokeshow that just walked in says. “Dance like everyone is watching; no one cares what you look like; they all look like that too.” Laugh, kiss, drink, smoke, fall in love, make a life-changing decision all in one night. The possibilities are endless at Bobby’s Motel.
The first three tracks, “Welcome to Bobby’s Motel,” “Hot Heater” and “Under the Wires” will all get you on your feet, beginning with a garage rock sound, but each becoming an uplifting psychedelic experience by the end. “Bobby’s Forecast” brings a bossa nova beat and a riff so groovy, you’ll be bouncing off the floor. Then it all goes dark.
“Down in the Dumps” emerges in reverse, as if David Lynch just pulled up in a blacked-out Cadillac, ready to join the party and make it that much weirder. This is not a bad thing; I dream of Lynch turning up at my parties regularly. Once the revellers realise he’s cool, the music restarts and you suddenly realise there is a band playing on stage, they sound a bit like early dEUS (one of my favourite bands ever) if they’d joined forces with the Fun Boy Three. Again, this is not a bad thing. Just take it all in, sit down and immerse yourself in “Reflection,” which arrives squarely in the middle of the album, and is absolutely breathtaking. It’s here that Pottery reveal their depth—exquisite vocals and strings that soar and transport you to a summer’s night outside the Motel pool, where all the guests slurp elegantly on cocktails and the music echos through the mountains. It’s the sound of the Amalfi Coast, linen suits, Spandau Ballet, catching someone’s eye, and the smell of citrus in the air. Just gorgeous.
The outdoor party is only just beginning though. Next up is “Texas Drums Pt. I & II.” Pt. I was the first single released from the album in February of this year, and is an absolutely joyous singalong. And despite what it sounds like, he’s singing “play those FUNKY drums for me,” so it is SFW. Pt. II bleeds in from Pt. I seamlessly, despite its very different sound. Psychedelic guitar swarms around you, the party is at its highest peak right now, and everything’s becoming a bit hazy. I imagine this is what Hunter S. Thompson’s head sounds like. You are so high and so drunk and you have no clue what’s going on, but it feels good.
“NY Inn” and “What’s In Fashion?” come at you like The Doors, Talking Heads and The Undertones just made a supergroup. There really is no letting up in just how different this album sounds, not only from song to song, but every track morphs into something else; it’s an experience. Bobby’s Motel is not a debut that lacks anything—quite the opposite. It’s teeming with excess and seizes every moment to overwhelm your senses. From the almost convulsive drum beats of “Take Your Time,” that will see you into an Ian Curtis-esque jaw clenching jig, to the final track, “Hot Like Jungle,” that will possibly make you cry and you won’t really know why. The sun is rising; the party is coming down. You don’t want this night to ever end. But at least you don’t have to go far to rest your head at Bobby’s Motel.
Having toured with bands like Parquet Courts, Thee Oh Sees and Fontaines DC in the last year, Pottery’s frantic groove sits appropriately next to these acclaimed names. The entire album feels like a house party but with production by Jonathan Schenke. It ascends beyond the confines of the garage rock genre. Bobby’s Motel is a much grander venue than a house after all.
I want to see Pottery live more than almost anything right now. The album does more than just suggest what the experience of their live show would be like. That is literally the only downside to Bobby’s Motel; I can only imagine it right now. But with any luck (and if people wear bloody masks) the Canadian five-piece may be able to tour again soon. In the meantime, take the trip to Bobby’s Motel with all your senses.
The production is raw and wild, with an air of anarchy that belies the music’s careful architecture and meticulous construction. You’ll find a place full of ambitious, elaborate performances that exude joy and mayhem in equal measure, a collection of songs that are alternately virtuosic, chaotic, and pure fun.
Pottery Welcome to Bobby’s Motel is out now via Partisan Records and Royal Mountain Records in Canada ($1 from each record sold in Canada will be donated to the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal.)