At the risk of sounding like a broken record and repeating the same point that’s made whenever a new post-punk band decides to drop an album, the last few years really have done so much to redefine what were once seen as exceptionally rigid genre boundaries. The surly, stone-faced half-brother of traditional punk has gained more vibrant and electric stripes, and the number of bands adding themselves to the pile is actually improving that reputation rather than diluting the pot. So here we have Pottery, a Canadian band who perked up ears with their No. 1 EP last year (not to mention being released on the current home of reliably great post-punk Partisan Records), but whose debut full-length Welcome To Bobby’s Motel feels like a conscious effort for the band to define themselves as the funny ones within the current scene. It’s definitely a noble effort, especially when the rambling press spiel about who exactly Bobby is plays to more broad absurdity away from the wryness of many of their British counterparts, as well as being elevated by a history of bands like this often succeeding when when the deliberate attempt to make themselves stand out is made.
And as is regularly the case with albums in this lane, Welcome To Bobby’s Motel is a really solid introduction for Pottery, albeit one that mightn’t be as immediately formed as the work of some of their contemporaries. The peaks and troughs are more clearly defined, and though that averages out to an enjoyable listen that makes good use of the band’s penchant for more rubbery, off-kilter compositional styles, the weaknesses in Pottery’s make-up are easier to pin down and leaves it feeling rough around the edges in a less flattering way than usual. Still, the concept of what they’re doing is great, and there’s enough inspired moments of creativity that make Pottery worth looking into, if only to see what could be when they eventually get everything nailed down.
Because right now, the unevenness is pretty palpable, and that’s really what brings Welcome To Bobby’s Motel down below similar acts who’ve felt more robust right from the off. There’s a manic sensibility to this album at its best, and restraining that for ideas that orbit approximately around the motorik thrum of The Jam on Under The Wires and What’s In Fashion? isn’t necessarily bad, but it does make for a series of relative lulls that aren’t the best. That’s especially true of the gauzy new wave of closer Hot Like Jungle, ending an otherwise tightly-wound album on a pretty limp note that doesn’t particularly flatter anything that’s come before it. Granted, there’s a very madcap sensibility to Pottery that means these decisions ultimately make sense, but they also give off the air of what’ll inevitably be shaved away when this band properly finds their feet.
It’s the impression that’s easy to get from effectively everything else, given that a lot of Pottery’s work operates under a jittery, percussively staccato vibe that’s a fair bit different from most of what else is currently around. The opening title track definitely sets the stage with the sort of brash tempo shifts and rattling bass tones that falls into a medium between contemporary post-punk and a brand of art-pop occupied by Talking Heads or Devo, and when given a wider space to shine and stretch like on Texas Drums Pt. I & II, it sees Pottery at their creative best. That’s extended on the squawking rumble of Down In The Dumps and the on-edge shudder of NY Inn, with writing that plays up its broader, popping sensibilities in a way that fully befits the tone that album is going for. It’s almost the polar opposite of ‘traditional’ post-punk in how lively and exuberant it is, but has the almost mechanical production style churning away in the background that ensure the grimy overlay that’s effectively customary is still there. But Pottery do make the two sides fit and it yields a weird final production for which the eased-back consistency and flow is almost expected. That isn’t quite enough to let them off the hook though, and an album focusing more on what it can do than how it can put that to better use is never going to stand as resolutely, but Pottery’s tactic of throwing out ideas isn’t as objectionable or haphazard as it may seem, there’s at least some interesting ideas stemming from it that could definitely be extrapolated into something more.
In other words, it’s a decidedly mid-tier post-punk album at this stage, perhaps more so than many others that are rising alongside it. There just isn’t the focus or clarity of vision to Welcome To Bobby’s Motel that bands like Kid Kapichi or Thee MVPs have already displayed, and as far as output goes, that does put Pottery at a slight disadvantage at this stage. In terms of potential though, there’s not a band in this scene that could currently do as much with what’s at their disposal than Pottery can, and getting that out there in such a capacity makes this album worth it alone. How long just that will last is a different question, but more from this band is something that’s incredibly highly anticipated now, and the fact that’s exclusively thanks to this album is still worth the praise.
For fans of: The Jam, Talking Heads, The Wants
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Welcome To Bobby’s Motel’ by Pottery is released on 26th June on Partisan Records.