Ask any band that has made the transition from an indie label, to a major, and back to an indie, and they'll all probably relate similar sentiments. pist*on are no exception. "The whole experience has been sobering to us," says frontman, principal songwriter, and self-professed realist Henry Font. pist*on's unique perspective to their art, somber dedication to their music, and the bleak, dark humor that proves their most charming characteristic. Hence the opening track on $ell.Out: "Suddenly Sober."
pist*on were so close to taking their music to the next level that they could taste it. But the experience was bitter, far from the fairy tale a European stint with Marilyn Manson and a Stateside tour with bands like Queensrÿche and Type O Negative might suggest. "Atlantic Records saw the chance to make a lot of money because we were an unknown band selling a lot of records with virtually no airplay. Problem was, they didn't know what to do with us," recalled Font, whose band adeptly swirls metal, alternative and pop with a panache that falls somewhere between the dark depths of goth and the exaggerated pomp of rock 'n' roll excess. Difference being, the band is still waiting to harvest the rewards that excess has to offer.
"We're even more in debt now than we were before" smirks Valium, who blends grit with glam as she wields sarcasm with the same prowess as she does her bass. "But we stuck to what we wanted to do, and to our integrity and it's paid off," chimes Font, "It was a learning experience." His optimism is short-lived In the company of his bandmate, though. Val's quick to point out that it was Atlantic who made the band change their name from pist*on to Piston (it's since changed back) As if that weren't enough, they even went so far as to ask Font to wear eyeliner onstage. "I knew what was coming next...a haircut...that's when I knew things were getting out of hand."
Ah, yes, hence the true beauty or the Brooklyn, NY-based quartet - Font, Valium, Burton Gans, the notoriously outrageous guitarist, and drummer Jeff McManus. Album number two doesn't compromise the depth of the brooding, dirge-like ditties that made their debut such a guilty pleasure, building considerably on their mountainous mass of poetic barbarism, side splitting cynicism, and pop-skewed metallic nuggets. "Too often, music's not about art anymore, it's about commerce. That's how $ell.Out came about," details Font of the new album, "All the ill-feelings we had about the business contributed to those songs. They gave the songs an extra edge, more sarcasm and anger. We did our own thing and expanded on the last record, but there was definitely a lot of animosity."
"Suddenly Sober" spanks with the harsh snap or a weekend bender, slamming into the guitar-driven spitfire of "Rest," Font snarling, "All of the rest that I get, I'm sleeping less and less, All of the time that I waste, I'm sleeping less and less," amidst a crash of music that rails somewhere between surging metal and the melodic delirium of The Cure-meets-The Smiths. The coupling kicks off a musical roller coaster that ebbs within the mellow wash of "31 Degrees" and "C," only to bustle more muscle into the mix with the vindictive cry of "When I Go" and emotional scourge of "Someone." Carrying the middle ground are the ambient spin of "Low," the desperate drone of "Need to Know," and the angry resolve of "Square."
Musically speaking, little can compete with pist*on's acute grasp of extremes, managing to maintain a pop edge on tracks that aren't self-congratulatory enough to be metal, are too witty to be goth, and far too accessible to be freaky. Sometimes, you just have to let a band's music speak for itself, and pist*on provide that opportunity with $ell.Out. Just when you think they're about to drown in their own self-disparaging effigies, they let loose with subtle lyrical sarcasm that leaves you floored, Case in point: "New Car" - "I bare all their big talk, Makes me angry, Glad I bought this gun."
Remember the saying, "it's better to be pissed off than pissed on"? $ell.Out is what happens when you're both.