My favorite release of the summer so far is composed of songs entirely recorded between 1994 and 1998 by a band long since broken up. Sure, it’s strange to enjoy an album by a rather obscure band from the mid-90s so much in 2005, but All Alongshows that Pohgoh deserved more than its share of attention.
I used to hear folks talk about Pohgoh as one of the rare emo bands with a female singer. But when I tracked down the band’s full-length, In Memory of Bab, I didn’t think the band sounded emo as well. Despite the personal and introspective lyrics, Pohgoh’s guitar-driven style was more pop to my ears, more Velocity Girl and Superchunk than Mineral and Sunny Day Real Estate. But this album will let you judge for yourself.
All Along compiles essentially all of Pohgoh’s songs, completely remastered. You get the entire In Memory of Bab full-length, “Friend X” from Deep Elm’s Emo Diaries comp., and songs from 7”s released with Braid, Discount, and others. It’s the band’s entire career, spanning the time Susie Richardson lent her gorgeous vocals and guitar to the band, as well as songs with the band’s original singer, Kobi Finley. You couldn’t ask for a finer retrospective.
The band’s finest work – both in maturity of sound and production values – is undoubtedly the songs from In Memory of Bab. “Tell Me Truly” is a fantastic rocker, taking the sweet Velocity Girl sound up a notch on the rock factor. Blazing guitars mix nicely with Richardson’s sweetly sung vocals on “Tired Ear,” a trademark of the band’s sound. Some songs are sweet, like “Megaphone Mouth” and the truly wonderful “All Along,” and some are fast and loud, like the blazing chorus of “Chapel of Ghouls.”
Some of the non-album tracks are slower, prettier. “Goodnight, Sweetheart” from the split with Braid couples that sweet sound with some amazing guitar work and some of Richardson’s best vocals. “Closer to the Truth” is a catchy early rocker from the band, and though Finley’s voice didn’t quite match the soaring quality of Richardson’s, it mixed with the band’s early style quite well. “Kandy Koated Cisses” is a cute, more poppy song, while “Red Lights Mean Go” is all-out from the beginning, with Richardson lending a bit of attitude to her vocals. And the cool echoey effects to “Look Out” make it another unique approach by this talented band.
I admit it: I love Pohgoh. Richardson’s voice was so perfect for this style of music, I sought out her next project, Maccabees, and highly recommend that band as well. But this was music of a particular period, filled with clever hooks and personal lyrics, impeccably well done and wonderfully remastered. This one is highly recommended.Jeff Marsh
Delusions of Adequacy
For the most part, female-fronted indie rock bands don't garner the appeal or accolades of their male-fronted counterparts. Bands such as the Rocking Horse Winner and the Anniversary, despite being musically sound, slipped under a lot of people's radar as they were just dismissed as no good, because of having a female singer. Admittedly, Pohgoh is a band that, until All Along found its way to my desk, I knew nothing of. The album is a discography, spanning the 4 years between 1994 and 1998 that they were actually making music. It features Kobi Finley, and Susie Richardson, both of whom had stints singing for the band, and both of whom interpret how the band should sound in a different way.
Through 19 tracks on All Along, you really get the feel as to just what this band was all about. Making solid indie rock songs, with beautiful female vocals leading the way. The music behind it seems so simple, and even whimsical at times, but don't let the beautiful tones of the guitar fool you, as a lot of these songs are actually fairly complicated. Pohgoh don't care to follow the verse-chorus-verse structure at all times, but there's still some choruses so catchy that just listening will make you feel guilty. For the first 14 songs, Susie Richardson's voice is nothing short of amazing, while spouting clever little lines such as "You won't find me fishing for compliments / because now I'm scared of what to expect." And it's on songs such as "Megaphone Mouth" and "Chapel Of Ghouls" that her angelic voice really takes flight.
The lyrical matter bases mostly on relationships, though it never comes to the point where it seems annoying or overbearing, a problem many bands have trouble realizing within their own music. It's not sappy, and it's not childish, and that's the reason you'll find that what Richardson is saying can really mean something to you.
I drag my feet and move too slow, I'll never make it home on time / The choice is mine, I'd have to lie but I know what I'd like to do / It'd like to stay right here with you / But something makes me walk away, it'd be so easy to stay / I'm looking at your smiling face, looking as I drive away / Too far to see your shining eyes / I'm going home tonight.
The last four songs, the ones where Kobi Finley sings, from the band's very first recordings, are the album's only sign of faltering. Finely's voice doesn't feel as at home with the music as Richardson's, not in an off-key way necessarily, more in the lack of cohesion with the rest of her bandmates. As far as discographies go, this is a fine one to own, but I can't help feeling the last four tracks hinder more than help. It's nice to see where the band started, but Richardson's inclusion on all the other tracks just makes it that much more apparent how they improved as a band when she took over the singing duties.
Pohgoh – All Along (2004) VBR V0