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Pottery - Welcome to Bobby’s Motel Music Album Reviews

On their debut, the Montreal art-rockers come off like a cootie shot against self-seriousness and boredom.

What does “new wave” even mean, really, besides too weird for spin class and weird enough for college radio? Montreal-based five-piece Pottery fit squarely within these parameters, wide as they are. Welcome to Bobby’s Motel, their full-length debut and follow-up to last year’s No. 1 EP, evokes the jubilant freakiness of the genre’s progenitors—Devo and The B-52s, chiefly—with a yawp like Parquet Courts (with whom they toured in 2019), so eager to ride the groove that they often scale up into shouts. Along this yardstick, the record teases the far-out, the riotous, and the anthemic, and in its efforts to push art-rock boundaries, it comes close to a novel sound, if not an entirely new wave.
Album standout “Texas Drums Pt. I & II” demonstrates this reach and ambition, a cowbell-laced, guitar-powered earworm that could play at a soda fountain on Mars. Around three minutes, the pings that signal “go” in a Mario Kart race kick off a raucous second half where the drums build to near-masturbatory excess, like an art-rock version of edging. It feels more like a late house-show finale than self-indulgence, locking into a rhythm that crests on energy rather than depleting it.
This bombast flavors most of the tracks on Bobby’s Motel, but “Reflection,” which one could mistake for an homage to Peter Gabriel’s So, cools the frenzy right on time, so the sweat can dry and Pottery can lament a culture of superficiality without tenderness. “Old receipts and body cream, where’s your passion?” they ask, and halfway through the song, they harmonize about the weight of empathy, a departure from the preceding raucousness. They are adept at finessing the soft alongside the hard, the goofy alongside the baleful.

It’s only due to this sharpness and surprise that other moments on the album feel dull. “Hot Heater” might be a standout track on a lesser record, but it’s less zesty than counterparts like “Under the Wires” or “Take Your Time” and more tepid than its name implies. Closer “Hot Like Jungle,” with its jingle bells and Rick Astley croon, stagnates at mid-tempo and comes closer to reaching for the ashtray than the stars.

This band is at its best operating at the edge of kitsch and excess, as with the “Monster Mash” voice inexplicably mumbling over “Bobby’s Forecast.” Groups like Pottery are a cootie shot against self-seriousness and boredom, and on subsequent albums, one can only hope they further indulge these freakier impulses, as jet-powered and stratospheric as the weirdos who made waves before them.

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