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The beautiful ugliness of Pile

What's in a name?

Pile is prone to sudden outbursts and wild mood swings. Photo courtesy of Facebook

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I normally don't make it a point to ask about their band name. For the most part, it's nonsense anyway. No one takes the time to ask Steely Dan or Pearl Jam or the Flaming Lips about their vaguely gross names. (Incidentally, I wonder if Steely Dan all shouted "F---!" when they got famous and realized that they couldn't change their name to reflect something other than a dildo.) Some band names are spot on in describing what you could expect to hear (see the hilariously uniform naming convention that comes with hardcore and emo bands), while there are countless others that sound like they put some words on ping pong balls into a bingo spinner.

Still, sometimes a band can back into a name that more or less sums up their vibe. Take Pile, a four-piece from Massachusetts. While they've named themselves a single, indistinct word, there are thousands of pages to be written with that one little word. Standing out amongst the English language, "pile" is a word that rarely denotes something good. I guess you could have a pile of delicious donuts? More often than not, though, you're dealing with a pile of something wholly unsavory. Listening to the beautifully ugly sound of Pile, their name suddenly gains a whole new resonance. This is a sordid pile of sounds, assembled into a shuffling golem of sound and vision.

"We're all into pretty different music," says Pile bassist Matt Connery. "A lot of us have tastes that don't show up in the music. We like Creedence Clearwater Revival a lot, and the Beatles, and Elton John - a lot of stuff that doesn't come through in the music. ... You listen to a lot of this melodic stuff that's really straightforward and has really good songwriting, but it's not really worth rewriting something that someone wrote 40 years ago. So, you end up writing a catchy song that has jarring changes and doesn't repeat parts. It's an interesting way to write songs, and it's been interesting for us."

Pile can reductively be classified as noise-rock, but that doesn't tell the whole story. On their most recent release, You're Better Than This, they may start out with the chaos of "The World is Your Motel," but they immediately counter with the slo-mo drift of "Mr. Fish," which recalls the absurd lyrics and morbid fixations of '90s legends. At most times, there is a dizzying level of off-kilter angularity to the music of Pile. To draw a convenient comparison to another noisy Massachusetts band, Pile borrows some of the loud-quiet-loud dynamics of the Pixies. Whereas the Pixies used their abrasiveness to approach pop songwriting from the backdoor, Pile are more committed to deconstructing songs into deceptive bursts of energy that tend to leave you with whiplash.

"It's not really our point to make weird songs or weird time signatures," says Connery. "It just happens. It sounds good."

There's a sense of resigned fatalism that lurks in the background of Pile's music, which shows itself bright and clear in the moments of quiet. Still, these gentle interludes never last very long. Around every corner waits the sharp sting of accosting guitar. Precision is the unaddressed weapon of Pile because, while everything may be full of sloppy passion and foaming mouths, there are a million subtle moves that Pile makes to push and shove their songs into unexpected directions. The only constant is the undeniable, surging energy that ejects their songs past the point of no return. When the soft reprises come, it's a welcome relief - if only for so long.

PILE, w/ Mall Walk, Trona, 8 p.m., Tuesday, April 7, Deadbeat Olympia, 226 N. Division St., Olympia, $5, 360.943.0662

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