Have you heard of the band, Pile?
You might have been asked this, once or twice. Possibly by myself or others in the music “scene.” As I write this, I listen to their new album and wanted to share some thoughts from a perpetual outsider’s perspective.
There is a reason everyone likes Pile and it’s not because of the people, it’s because of the music, man!
Fans of Pile celebrated today (August 20th, 2021) because their newest album, “Songs Alone, Together” has officially been released on the internet.
I would highly recommend listening to it yourself instead of reading this as it is good, uh, music.
And be sure to read the thoughts from the man himself, Rick.
I am already losing the plot here, so to break things up please enjoy the picture below of a record store with only KISS merch behind the 12"s
Okay back to the album at hand. It starts off with the first song:
1. Touched By Comfort
This first appeared on You’re Better Than This, another classic album. Side note: I still remember packaging those records and being SO EXCITED to see the cover art up close. Good times, anyway.
The reimagining of this with the synths is so good it makes me want to mosh at a show where I shouldn’t be moshing.
The lines that have always stood out to me are the main ones:
“It’s the same place on a map
But most things have turned over
Buildings repurposed, money exchanged
Between floating hands”
I re-listened to the full band song to compare the differences and love how the build is slower on this new one. Since the super fans already know the song, Pile can take this time here and add in the experimental (to them) synthesizers that Rick discussed in the interview linked above.
Worms, my favorite animals! I was questioning whether they were animals, but Wikipedia helped me out here.
This song was originally on the release A Hairshirt of Purpose, another great album! I did also helped package these during one of the big Pile rushes over at EIS Records. This was always a slower Pile song so the new treatment makes sense, to me at least. This was the first song on Hairshirt and I always remembered it as such because I am one of those people who listen to an album the way it was released (yes, even pop music like Lorde and Billie Eilish). What strikes me about this song is the impact it continues to have.
The lyrics are so simple and amazing that the change in musical style is welcome to my aging ears.
“An odd but deep calm
Washes over me
And from this distance
I take in the heat from the glow
From your burning skin”
3. Other Moons
Okay, though I initially forgot about this one from Grey and Green, but knew it sounded familiar! Grey and Green seems like just yesterday, doesn’t it? I forgot this was an old one, re-done. With COVID revamps, live streams, and other Pile happenings, these things are easy to forget (remember — I am an aging Pile fan, not like you young kids!).
This one is great with and short with scarce lyrics. It was the 4th song on G&G originally and the 3rd song here, which probably doesn’t matter to anyone else but me.
If moons of others
Are painted as lonely as ours”
4. I Don’t Want to Do This Anymore
As you can see by the timestamp above that I copied from Bandcamp, this song was re-released with a video. Another Hairshirt namesake here (the 9th track! A deep cut! However, the new song is completely new besides the name I believe. The accompanying video acts as a teaser of sorts to the full album. To let the fans know this is not Pile As Usual…or whatever people might have been thinking.
Both the video and the track are done in a glitchy, almost whisper-like way. We have not known it in this context despite me (and you, possibly, dear reader) knowing this song. Watch the video yourself!
The original song was instrumental and I can’t understand the lyrics in this one so leaving that section off, but might add later if someone wants to link the proper ones in the comments.
Also, side note, didn’t Rick start a Tumblr at one point with all the Pile lyrics, or am I making this up in my head? Anyway, if Rick wants to share the lyrics one day that is up to him!
EDIT — wow all the lyrics on their newly designed website 🤦♀️
5. Keep the Last Light On
Okay, this is one with clear lyrics from the last go-round! This was on Odds and Ends, a recent(ish) release. I remember this one from the old live shows and am glad it gets to see the light of a couple of hot vinyl presses. The new version feels a bit extended but actually tracks at the same time, down to the second…I see you with that one, Rick.
“Mourning the loss of someone who’s still there
Or that’s what you want to know
If he’s just changed shapes or lives in the air”
6. Steve’s Mouth
Here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: a song from the album Dripping. This was the album that got me into Pile so I will spare the sappiness but if you are new to the band and looking for a place to start, this was my entry and I have been a fan ever since :)
The original version was crips to the point of bluntness
This is a short vignette of lyrics as well so all of the lyrics are my favorite but I have to pick the main chunk of meat here. Also, has anyone confirmed or theorized if this was inspired by Steve from that band Ovlov? Don’t want to tell tales outside of school but am too lazy to go on a Reddit hole. Either way, this is an amazing song that reminds me of some night terrors I’ve had, though with less of the whole “being stuck in a burning building and not being able to get out” thing.
I’ve also always hated my mouth, which might be why this song always resonated with me. Sometimes I do wish it would eat me. 👄
“Steve woke up sitting on his own head sobbing
And couldn’t breathe
He had a dream that the mouth died
Because steve had to eat”
7. Rope’s Length / My Employer
Now, this is not one but TWO songs for the price of one. “Rope’s Length” is from Hairshirt and “My Employer” is from G&G originally though was re-released on another re-release album before this re-release album.
The combination of these two songs is brilliant. They are two songs that both quietly scream desperation at the humdrum existence of toiling away endlessly for an employer or entity that doesn’t care.
I love how these are intertwined and lengthened both musically and lyrically. Speaking of, since this was originally two songs, I am picking two lyrical passages.
“Stare at the dark and wait for the sun
That always comes up on the wrong day
I’m aware of my age
My impermanence and so forth
I’ve made arrangements to change
But my nature will make its case”
8. Afraid of Home
Okay the real Pile freaks like me might recognize this from the original first album, Demonstration. The redux doesn’t seem to have the OG lyrics that I can hear, but this was such a favorite of mine I will include some of the lyrics here in hopes that you will go back to that awesome first release and listen.
Even without lyrics, this song hits hard with just the title. I can’t be the only one also afraid of home. Granted, I grew up in New Jersey, so I should be, but still. One more thought here: I always thought it was “a failure we’ve endured” but I am wrong about that just like I am about most things!
“I’m bored of all I can afford
It’s the other person’s fault
It’s mine, it’s yours
It’s a failure we’ve endorsed”
9. No Bone
Uh oh, Rick is breaking out the piano. That means stuff is serious. Another Hairshirt song — can you tell this was a CLASSIC album from the moment it was released?
It’s amazing to me that this song was written before COVID was a “thing” in the U.S. Yet, the lyrics are so timeless it could have been written yesterday. Definitely a great choice to add the piano on this one. This is one I would highly recommend buying the online accompanying video for as it really kicks the song up (down?) a notch.
With the news that dropped yesterday of the U.S. withdrawing from Afghanistan, I find the below lyrics particularly poignant.
“Now all places are safe for war
We can all pick fights and stay indoors”
FIDGET! If you’ve seen Rick from Pile play an acoustic show, you might have heard this one requested by the big fans! It’s a bonafide C L A S S I C, first appearing on Jerk Routine. Go buy that right now if you don’t have it digitally yet! If you’ve made it this far in this piece, you kind of owe the band 10 extra bucks 😇
Or even $1 USD for just this song! Anyone who knows me can probably guess my favorite lyrics are all of them, but I will pick my extra favorite ones.
“It was an awful mistake that you made
Now you’re part of the stain
What you want moves too slow
But it won’t ever stop”
This one is originally from G&G, Not Hairshirt like I first thought! This has been one of my favorites since I heard it live. The lyrics so beautifully ecapslate a moment in time that can be applied to many other moments in time.
Also, I have long hair that has been known to fall out in odd places. Seems fitting for the theme of this song! The piano on this is great and I am once again asking you to buy the darn live video please and thank you.
I feel some hair that‘s hanging off of me
It’s not mine nor do I want it to be
I will pull for you if that’s what you want me to do
But I like to walk fast and I demand you allow me to
Do you think Pile knowns what Milkshake Duck means? Probably not, but I had to write that out there so maybe if Rick reads this he will have a laugh.
Anyway, this one if off of Hairshirt again! What a great album. These lyrics are not on their official website but you have find them online (probably butchered a bit). This is another one that was a classic as soon as it was released/played live. Not sure how it relates to a milkshake, but I have to say nothing wrong with a plain vanilla milkshake to dip your fries in. I like chocolate too, but sometimes there is just too much chocolate in a chocolate milkshake.
The lyrics are all good but you all know that by now right? Below are my extra faves.
You lay down and try to rest
Try to breathe deep with that foot on your chest
Two Hairshirts in a row! Did anyone have that on their Pile bingo card? While I am more of a cat person, I do appreciate dogs. That said, I have been kept awake by dogs and, therefore, can relate to this song. I’ve also been kept awake by worrying about the comfort of others rather than myself. Perhaps this is what this song is about or maybe this is what I am drawing from it.
Either way, this is def a fan favorite for a reason. Have you ever pretended to sleep? I used to do this all the time, especially in my younger days. I’ll never forget sleeping at my friend’s house in NJ and being so cold an uncomfortable that I lay there staring at the ceiling all night. That friend then threw me a surprise party for my 11th birthday, so it wasn’t all bad.
And then I pretend to sleep
I’d rather on the ground than in your bed
I’ll sleep on the lawn or stay up instead
14. Mama’s Lipstick
Oh man, this one is crazy. This was on Odds and Ends but OG on that Special Snowflakes 7". That one is worth picking up if you can find it anywhere :)
This had piano on the original and I remember being so impressed with the divergence from the guitar rawk when I first heard it on the old album. This also reminds me of when I would steal my own mother’s lipstick as a kid. I would put it back, but I loved having red lips like my grandma.
My favorite lyrics are the dark ones, as usual.
A shriek that ran out of gas prompts yawns that you try and hide
Why wait for death
When you can achieve senility
15. Build a Fire
What a song and video to end on! Why are you trying to build a fire, Pile??? Just kidding. This song is a great and was one of the OG OGs on Demonstration. It was the first track there, so I find it fitting for the album to end on this note.
It is another fan favorite (you are probably sick of reading this if you got this far, but it’s true) and it is a stalwart in the Pile mythos.
I’m gonna build a fire and die
One that don’t care if i’m dead or alive
Show em all I’ve done and what’s right
And they’ll use it all as a guide
Thank you all so much for reading my thoughts! I know I’m not a “good writer” but I hope this helped convey what a special album this is to many people.
Remember to be kind to your neighbors and tip your bartenders and buy merch from the touring bands and pay the non-touring bands.