Pit Er Pat


(Thrill Jockey; 2006)

By Craig Eley | 19 August 2007

Pit Er Pat: A Kind of Love Story

I was first introduced to Pit Er Pat as the opening act for Menomena at an extremely small venue in Pittsburgh. I was there with a friend of mine, who bumped into a friend of his. “So, excited to see Menomena?” my friend asked. His friend, who was just Hip as Fuck, by the way, responded that he was there to see Pit Er Pat. I was thrown off-guard. What the fuck was a Pit Er Pat? And why did this hip dude like them? Call it my passion for anything connected to Menomena, or a phase of low self-esteem, but I needed to find out more. Plus, their set was pretty good.

Next thing I knew, I was hooked up with Pit Er Pat. It was a short fling at first, you know, the Emergency EP (2004), but then Pit Er Pat put out a long-player and we were going steady. It wasn’t really that it was all that good, you know, but it sounded kind of cool, and I’d take it out sometimes and show it off to my friends. You kinda like that, right? That’s what Pit Er Pat does for you.

But even a seed-sowing guy like me wanted to know where things were going when the going got serious. What’s next for us, I would wonder. The reply was always just over the horizon: Pyramids. Ooh, exotic, I thought. Then I heard it, and I heard it, and I heard it again. I was starting to wonder if the amount of time that I’d put into this thing was really worth it. It was so wrong, so bad

Then the regret set in. Why was I ever drawn to Pit Er Pat in the first place? Now Pit Er Pat wants breakfast, and I want Pit Er Pat to leave. Pit Er Pat is wearing my favorite fucking T-shirt. Why? Because one night, I thought Pit Er Pat was cool.

The End

Okay, enough backstory. The point is, I got really intrigued by Pit Er Pat, thought they were mildly interesting, and spent a whole lot of time and energy listening to this record. It leaked months ago, and I immediately jumped at the chance to review it; I made it my mission to give Pit Er Pat to the masses. I was telling my friends how excited I was, but now, Pit Er Pat has embarrassed me. Well, themselves really; I’m just a reviewer. But I also feel bad, because I had ridiculously (unrealistically, I now know) high expectations. Let me put it this way: it’s one of the best average records of the year!

If you’ve never heard Pit Er Pat, opener “Brain Monster” serves as good an introduction as any, and is either one of the album’s standout tracks or merely one of its most tolerable. Fay Davis-Jeffers is the keyboardist and singer here, and she channels Karen O in personal style and Eleanor Friedberger in vocal delivery. Which is interesting, because it’s also those two bands who are the best touchstones for Pit Er Pat’s sound, though, yes, that wretched mutual friend Menomena is also appropriate. “Brain Monster” has a vibe very similar to Karen O’s Squeak E. Clean-produced “Hello Tomorrow.” Some high, xylophone-esque synths dance over a slow organ foundation, with the drums doing an excellent job of filling the empty space of the arrangement. Lyrically, though, this track is also about the best you can get with this band, with a single recurring line: “So scared to go to sleep / afraid of what I might dream.” Turns from the other two-thirds of the group at the mic are somewhat more rewarding. The male vocals in “Seasick (Hang Ten)” are more poetic and slightly harder to understand in just the right proportion.

“Baby’s Fist” is melodically the strong point here, but it is also this point where the vocals become an issue for me. Not quite an “I have to turn this off” issue, but an issue. I’m “noticing” them by now in a way that isn’t very good. Which is perhaps why “Swamp” is the most perfect -- and perfectly placed -- song on this record. A multi-part instrumental, it starts with a freak-show lullaby and moves into a fuzzy, disorienting middle section. The track finds its stride around the 3:55 mark and rides that wave until its conclusion two minutes later with bird noises and cricket sounds. Not surprisingly, “Rain Clouds,” another instrumental, is another high point: less dynamic and more ambient in its nature than “Swamp,” it is mostly a pretty drone that adds seagull noises towards the track’s end.

Ultimately, though, Pit Er Pat is an art school project gone wrong; it’s a concept trio that seems to lack a concept. Their ability to create interesting soundscapes makes the album worth listening to, but the one-dimensional nature of the vocals makes the album a chore to get through more than once, even at 42 minutes.