Athens, The City
As someone who’s never been to Athens, I spend an awful lot of time thinking about the city. It appears to be a mid-sized Southern city purely made for someone like me, a music obsessive that happens to love basketball (and, secondarily, football) a lot. The city is home to an excellent university, a wildly diverse art scene, and, most importantly, food. But it is also home to three musical acts incredibly important to my youth: The B-52s, R.E.M., and Pylon.
All three emerged out of the same University of Georgia-adjacent scene in the late-70s/early-80s. Two of these bands you know very well; two of these bands have pitch-perfect debut albums that everyone should own. Somehow, the third of these – a significantly less perfect debut – is of utmost importance to me. Pylon’s Gyrate, a 1980 release, is a pretty excellent new wave-ish album from the Athens group. The idea itself is surprisingly simple – what if we made a punk album you could dance to? – and a basically perfect record for my scatterbrain.
However, there’s a follow-up edition of this album released in 2007, long after the group had ceased its existence: Gyrate Plus. 16 songs long instead of 11, it adds a few songs on both ends. Most bonus track releases are money-grabs that don’t catch my eye. AND YET: this does, because of the first two songs. “Cool” was featured in a Lexus commercial a few years back and sounds, well, like the coolest thing ever. “Dub” is basically the only reason I still play guitar, because it is the absolute perfect song for someone with a 12-year-old’s brain. Amazingly, Pylon released these two songs as a little-known single a year prior to the album coming out.
I like thinking about this band, because I like thinking about any unfairly-ignored group and I like thinking about the fact it took them 27 years to realize the two best songs they ever recorded probably should’ve led off their debut album. I guess they arrived at thinking they should lead the re-release of the album with them somehow, but it’s nice to think of it as a happy accident. Accidental greatness – the name of what I’d probably like to achieve one day.
Athens, The Sports Town
Everyone rightfully thinks about Georgia football when it comes to the University of Georgia. BUT: did you know their basketball team has a seriously odd history? A quick deep dive starts below.
- 11 times in a 22-season span, Georgia basketball spent at least some time in the AP top 20…yet never peaked higher than 10th for a week in 1983-84, a season they did not make the NCAA Tournament.
- Just three times in the 64/68-team era has Georgia lost single-digit games…but until last season, they’d never topped 20 losses, either.
- Georgia has finished within one game of .500 in conference play either way 14 different times in the last 29 seasons.
- In the modern era of basketball – we’re saying about 1970-present here – Mark Fox is easily #2 in Georgia’s history in wins at 163. Mark Fox never won an NCAA Tournament game at Georgia, spent one week ranked at #24, and never had a W-L% better than 63.6%. And yet!
Ken Pomeroy’s program ratings place Georgia as the 61st-best program in college basketball, which seems pretty much perfect. Georgia’s only finished in the KP Top 50 six times in its 23-year database, hasn’t made the Sweet Sixteen, has never finished higher than 16th (2002-03)…and yet, they are never outright terrible, last season excepted. In the post-Jim Harrick era, Georgia’s only made three NCAA Tournaments in 16 seasons, with zero wins. However, they are ridiculously consistent: they’ve finished in the KP Top 50 once and have finished outside of it six times, which means they’ve ranked 51-100 nine times.
In some fashion, it’s remarkable. Georgia may be the most fine program out there. You never spend a second worrying about them, but they’re always there…waiting on the periphery…thinking about getting better…never actually getting better. If .500 were in the dictionary, you would see this program. I think I’ve arrived at considering this commendable in some way; fans of the program itself will think of it as a relentless frustration.
NEXT PAGE: The second Pylon album is also good, complete with all-time cover art