The Pilgrims | It's Not Pretty
album review by John Powell
Some contemporary bands have held on to the le se faire attitude rock n’ roll bands of the 60’s and 70’s seemed to offhandedly master. It comes in the instrumental arrangements, with a tight band that is purposefully sloppy, and with a vocalist that may not hit all the notes, but doesn’t care if he does or not.
The Pilgrims are a quartet of Vermonters that believe in these core principles of rock n’ roll. It’s about firing on all cylinders at all times. Their amps are ay 11, the drummer had one too many coffees, and the singer sounds like he hasn’t slept in days.
Maybe it’s a façade, but who cares? It’s Not Pretty perfectly sums up this 13-song set. It’s not all gorgeous music-making, but it’s fun, and catchy, and old school. This critique isn’t the first to compare The Pilgrims to early Rolling Stones, and I hope not the last, because it’s a great comparison. Sense of blues- and then spiraling off into rock- The Pilgrims make tight songs that border on the beginning days of punk. The songs have heart but they’re also not concerned with getting too deep.
“That Gold” could be The Vines, The Hives, or even something The White Stripes might pull off. Simple bass, guitars at play, and vocals slightly fuzzed out. The chorus is twice as loud and screaming, and the guitar solo, one minute in, is ferocious.
While most tracks are good, some are great. “Snow Storm” is a bit more chilled out, slower, and finds a groove. The two guitars make the most of the airwaves. “Give me the time/ and I’ll smile,” singer Chris Goulet offers in his harsh manner. The album is full of small town troubles, touching on partying for the hell of it.
“Philibuster Brown” is a punky blast. “Think I’ll buy a plow,” it goes; “revolutionize the cow.” The chorus comes around enough times to etch into your subconscious, and later on in verse two, “I think I’m cashing out,” sounds like a man who is only leaving for the night, and coming back tomorrow.
Songs like “American Eyes” are about as American rock as you can get, halfway between Tom Petty and Buddy Holly. Okay, okay, enough with the comparisons, but The Pilgrims belong on an early 90s movie about a road trip. It’s that sort of grungy sweat that makes us fist pump.
The mixing on the album is low-fi, but not obnoxiously so. Anything tighter and it wouldn’t have that garage feel we’re all hoping for. The Pilgrims are on the first leg of a potentially great journey. Their songs might meander into 60’s throwback obscurity, but cross your fingers for a band whose first album is only a hint at their forthcoming annihilation of boredom.
Bottom line: Truly good rock n’ roll from Vermont quarter with a love of the simple.