I’d been waiting for this one to be released for a long time. The postman had slipped the package under my garage door* and when I got home from work I felt my stomach flutter a little when I saw it was there. I was still a bit nervous when I first listened to it, the way I get sometimes with a band I really like; just in case it doesn’t live up to what I want from them and it diminishes past glories by association. Still, Pontiak Dialectic Of Ignorance had arrived, it was time to see whether it was a worthy follow-up to Innocence, my favourite LP of 2014 (and way better than anything from the following two years).
I wasn’t too impressed with the cover, five repetitions of a section of a photograph of some trees with what looked like the morning sun behind it and all the lyrics, but not much else on the back cover. There is no inner sleeve, just gorgeous thick yet transparent yellow vinyl. So I grabbed myself a strong coffee, put the needle on the record and …
Dialectic Of Ignorance is such a different record to Innocence. The latter sounded like a rural Stooges jamming with The Band, a bucket of fight and a pail of sentiment, whereas the new LP just sounds like Pontiak. Let me explain.
The opener ‘Easy Does It’ is a case in point; a slew of carefully picked, willfully fuzzed-out notes peal out, repeating and repeating before the Lain Carney’s drums join the fray heavily, almost reluctant sounding. By the time the organ joins up the vocals have kicked in, but that guitar figure is still repeating and repeating, worming its’ way in. The lyrics are difficult to follow, there are references to vacant eyes, blurred skies, regrets and haze, but the music gives you your emotional cues, the guitar solo that slices into the mix about 3 and a half minutes in is just frantic! Then ‘Easy Does It’ does what songs just shouldn’t really do, it quietens and heads into a sun-blanched coda, everything just sounds numb, ‘If it’s God you trust, I reckon you’re lost’. It’s brilliant but it just doesn’t obey any rules of song structure, like it was assembled in a linear fashion rather than a vertical one. Like the cover pictures Joe you big dummy!
I have heard Pontiak deny that Dialectic Of Ignorance is a political album, maybe, maybe not. Possibly this might just be liberal commie pinkos like myself reading the album title and the song titles ‘Ignorance Makes Me High’ and ‘We’ve Fucked This Up’ and drawing certain parallels with politics in Pontiak’s native land. To me this LP sounds, if not political, than very now – there’s resignation, a desire to escape into numbness and anger hereabouts. The track ‘Ignorance Makes Me High’ features some very angry, metallic riffs at one stage and a great searching guitar solo courtesy of Van Carney, it’s a thrilling ride – ‘High was high / It was all that was left’.
My favourite track right now is ‘Tomorrow Is Forgetting’ which is a great off-kilter groover which finds a certain sound and sticks with it, almost in a trance like way. It reminds me of dancing whilst being very drunk, the bass line is a deep pulse, the vocals gnawing, gnawing at you over and over again. Over almost six minutes it becomes hypnotic, I really love it. It shows again the difference between Dialectic Of Ignorance and Innocence, the predominance of the rhythm section on this album – they’ve slipped their collars and really are leading the tunes here, to killer effect. This shows up, even in the regretful softer ‘Hidden Prettiness’ which is as close as we get here to a ballad, complete with a restrained but skyscraping guitar solo from Van Carney that really crinkles my winkles.
I will spare you the full track by track, only to say that there is enough variation on show to make this another really impressive LP. The production is, again, superb. Pontiak record in their own barn studio and the sound is just great, warm and clear without being too clean. You can hear every note perfectly even when the band rally rip into the likes of the super-fuzzy LP closer ‘We’ve Fucked This Up’, which is about as good a song title as there will ever be**.
The overall vibe of Dialectic Of Ignorance is a sense of everything being stretched and strung out for all its’ worth, maybe that was ‘all that was left’, or the Carney brothers may just have been bugging out on their own sounds. It doesn’t really matter because these dudes have emerged from their farm/brewery with another great album under their arm and more to the point, they have found a way to evolve their sound whilst still only sounding like themselves.
We laughed at all the ways we might have fucked this up / So we take off all our clothes and jump in over our heads
Amen to that brothers and long may she run.
*I have an arrangement with him, I think the staff at the local sorting office were getting a bit bored of seeing me. I remember going there one morning and the guy behind the counter saying, ‘Usual Shape?’, which is a bit too much like being on first name terms with the nurse at the clap clinic. I’d imagine.
**although the track before it, ‘Herb Is My Neighbour’ runs it pretty darned close.