Welcome To Bobby’s Motel is the debut album from Montreal art-rockers Pottery, out on Partisan Records. A natural first question would be who is Bobby and where is his motel? And this really sets the tone for the album itself, a manic, frantic trip of a record, as the answer is: both Bobby and his motel are entirely fictional. Of course.
This album will have you grinning from beginning to end – guitar music often takes itself painfully seriously these days, whereas Pottery seem to be trying to have a joke at the expense of the entire genre. It’s only natural, then, that production comes courtesy of Jonathon Schenke, known for his work with Parquet Courts; another band that comes to mind when considering why indie rock doesn’t have a joke more often.
These tracks veer violently around a central base of gonzo art-rock, and while the instrumentation never strays north of the eighties, the feel is definitely that of a modern-day band. These songs feel unsettled, as if they were written on the move; perhaps in the back of the van, bashed out during soundcheck. They go places.
There’s a central formula here, which seems to be that the moment you’ve found your footing with a riff or a groove, Pottery immediately discard it for a new, even more bonkers one. Rinse and repeat for 11 tracks. It gives the album the feel of a bucking bronco – the listener holds on for dear life, and if they just about manage to stay on, they’re in for a wild, wild ride.
Many of these songs become something else entirely over their runtime, shifting gears relentlessly; it would appear that Bobby has an itchy trigger finger. Special praise must be given to the percussion on this album, too. Welcome To Bobby’s Motel is, in many ways, an album-length love letter to rock drumming. There’s even a track that is solely about a particularly nice drum kit that the band played when they were at SXSW in Austin – hence, Texas Drums. This cut in particular had me chuckling, as frontman Austin Boylan demands over and over, “won’t you play those funky drums for me?”
Boylan’s delivery sits somewhere between David Bowie and David Byrne. Slightly manic, slightly tongue-in-cheek, he feels like a crazed bingo announcer. It’s hard not to enjoy when someone delights in writing tracks about the most mundane of subject matter. Hot Heater is about their tour bus’s AC (“Hot heater / Your hand’s facing a/ Hot heater / Your head’s on a…”) It’s lyrics like these that make the album: the lack of glamour of the touring lifestyle. You feel that the band are laughing so as not to cry.
Heavier subject matters also feature. ‘Take Your Time’ wrestles with the heroin epidemic in Vancouver, and the ease with which you can accidentally slip into that lifestyle. But, no matter the topic, you can guarantee that Pottery deliver it over an irresistible groove, and, most likely, a copious amount of cowbell.
Pottery’s secret weapon? if you stop taking yourself too seriously, you can get away with far, far more than anyone else could. That’s why they’re able to have so many moments that will leave the listener gobsmacked, or more probably laughing out loud. You can tell the band is having an absolute ball, and we have no choice other than to go along with them.
The LP’s only fault is its homogeneity; when you spend all 11 tracks aping various ends of the US rock pantheon, it can become a touch fatiguing on the listener’s end. Equally, the class clown schtick can also grate – if the band themselves didn’t double down on it so decisively, it could wear thin. But luckily, they go all-in, and the result is a shot of pure serotonin.
It is a sad realisation is that these are tracks that deserve to be heard played live, loud, in some tiny bar with sweat on the ceiling, and that won’t be possible for quite some time. But, when it is, Pottery will be there to greet us like an old friend, a bonkers riff in one hand, and a cowbell in the other.