A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring. I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up. I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever. Enjoy!
Today we have “Long Live” by local Pittsburgh band Allies from their 2011 album “Wire Walk”.
Every sweet seed you’ve sewn
Every good thing you’ve grown
Every last light you’ve known
Shadow swallows up soon
Long live your living on
Long live you’re living on
I don’t recall exactly when I first met Joel Grimes but it must have been pretty early after moving to Pittsburgh. In those late 90’s, he was in several bands – The Doctrine of the Last Fair Chance and then The Great Eastern. After getting to experience both bands live, I really began to enjoy Joel’s guitar and vocal work. By the time The Roboto Project was opening in late 1999, The Great Eastern was nearing it’s end. Around that same time, a young Joseph Vesely would begin hanging out at Roboto shows. Joel and Joey would meet up, bond over their shared love of Fugazi and Gibson SG’s and after The Great Eastern’s demise they would join forces with Jason Kirker and Jake Leger to form Pikadori.
Pikadori would be one of the bands that would help define Roboto’s early years and would quickly become one of my favorites. My band He Taught Me Lies played many shows with Pikadori during their existence, including their CD release show and several short out-of-town trips. When I got married, I would quote a Pikadori lyric in my vows – “Make a decision with something to lose”. Unfortunately, during an attempted US tour, Pikadori would break up mid-way.
After the break-up, Joel and Joey would create Allies with Jim Robinson (of He Taught Me Lies) and Tom Schaible. Allies would play their first show as part of the He Taught Me Lies/Rick Gribenas split LP release show in April 2004. This line-up would last a year or so and then Joel and Joey would part ways with Jim and Tom. Over the years Allies would go through a few different line-ups with Joel and Joey being the core members. For about the last year Allies has been on semi-hiatus as they work out a new line-up. These various comings and goings have had their effects on the band where they have had a stronger presence at some times than others. The last time I saw them as part of the “Drag Me Home” compilation CD release show was perhaps one of their best live shows I had seen. Unfortunately shortly thereafter they would part ways with both their drummer and bassist again.
Allies have always been a solid band across all of their line-ups but they never quite grabbed me the way that Pikadori did. I think part of that was just the time that Pikadori inhabited but I also think that their sound had a greater influence from their rhythm section, especially in the drums, that pushed the songs more. Jake Leger is a loud, hard hitting drummer that forces the members of his bands to meet him at his level. His drumming added a kick to Pikadori’s sound. When Allies started, Tom was a relatively new drummer and didn’t have quite that level of force or ability, which led to the band eventually parting ways. When Greg Cislon took over drum duties for Allies, even though he was a very talented and accomplished drummer, I think his style was a lot more reserved and controlled.
Allies have written some great songs over the years and the two CD’s they’ve put out are both recommended. Over they year’s both Pikadori and Allies have been plagued by being described as “DC-influenced hardcore” due to Joel and Joey’s love of Fugazi and all things Dischord Records. While both bands certainly have some DC influence, ultimately neither band really sounds specifically like Fugazi or anything that you’d hear on Dischord. They are loud, guitar-driven rock with nods to 90’s indie rock, hardcore, grunge, and more.
“Long Live” is a great opening track. It’s starts with a slow and low guitar riff that slowly builds and then erupts into a semi-Lungfish style trance of a riff that’ll get you slowly nodding your head. The song remains mid-paced, playing with several variations on the thematic riff, ending in a yelled chanting of “Long live your living on. Long live you’re living on”. This leads into the more upbeat and driving “Rain Parade” and the record remains a bit more mid-paced and lively from there on out. “Wire Walk” was a great second effort from these guys.
Prior to the last regular line-up disbanding they had recorded several songs down in DC with Fugazi/Deathfix’s Brendan Canty. I think they did three songs. One of these songs appears on the “Drag Me Home” CD compilation and is a great track, showcasing a top-notch recording and great songwriting and energy from the band. It’s a shame as it seems they were on the verge of really catching a good groove and doing some big stuff with the band, but it looks like they are back to re-building. That’s ok, as Joel would tell you, he was born building.