REVIEW: Pile – ‘Special Snowflake / Mama’s Lipstick’ 7″

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Artist: Pile
Album: Special Snowflakes / Mama’s Lipstick
Genre: Post-punk, rock & roll, indie rock
Label: Exploding in Sound Records

The burned-out psychedelic grunge of Dripping still has its edge. When it was released, Pile were a band that I had heard but never seen live – a band that had played shows with favorites like Giraffes? Giraffes!. Featuring vocals that ring out like a northern Jeff Mangum, I loved the band instantly, but their songwriting was consistently good and yet not great.

On the 7″ of Special Snowflakes / Mama’s Lipstick, Pile has taken their game to another level.

The first track – based on Pitchfork, the single, “Special Snowfakes” – is the more straight-forward of the two songs, but it’s still no verse/chorus/verse affair. It’s catchier than anything I’ve heard from their fellow Massachusetts DIY peers, yet also more experimental. A seven and a half minute romp through shifting styles takes place – jangly piano, soft vocals? Check. Heavy middle section? Check. Quiet subtleties with the sustained echoing interplay between the two guitars? Check.

The lyrics are a unique thrill – the tale of a shoe with a hole in it, when walking in snow, can either be a cross to bear or the gift that makes someone a winner. What’s that a metaphor for? I have no idea, but I know it feels moving even after some forty listens. “He wears that hole in his shoe with real grace / And if he wears it right, he just might have a leg up on everyone / But it’d feel so good.” You can feel the internal conflict as he shouts, “Holding the ropes that he’d been thrust upon / Can’t get his hands off his feet to enjoy the walk / Now it’s tough to tell if ever he was real / Just knows the crunch of his new boots crushes special snowflakes.” The pull of good and bad is strong; Pile’s vocals not only pull the heart-strings, they cut them away.

But the musical adventure doesn’t end with Side A; the other song, “Mama’s Lipstick” starts off as an acid-trip echo of “Special Snowflakes” and ends up being its own thing in the vein of Sonic Youth having a baby with The Beatles. The release was most likely designed with a turntable in mind, as you can hear the stretch between segments on the b-side and the general length supports the idea that this isn’t music to be shuffled on an iPod.

In the end, Pile’s a hard band to pin down, and where they’ll take their sound after this, I have no idea. What I do know is that Dripping was very good, but this? This is amazing. With a handful of shows lined up in New England and New York, I can only recommend going to one. Based on this release, Pile should be the next big thing; if they nail these songs live, Pile will be.

SCORE: 9/10
Review by: Dan Bogosian (Twitter)

Dan Bogosian

I finished school with a music theory degree. Before I finished school, I was a janitor. You really should apologize to all the janitors you've ever had. You hurt them. Seriously. You did.

But, now that we've cleared that up and you called your high school janitor, know that I quit being a janitor to pursue writing about music. So here I am, and here you are, and hey how are you?
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