ALBUM REVIEW: Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Psychology
A lot has changed for Pigeons Playing Ping Pong since their 2010 Funk EP. They’ve toured relentlessly, playing nearly 200 shows in 2013. They’ve run their own successful and insanely strong festival several years in the running: Domefest, in the beautiful hills of West Virginia, which has served as a hotspot of jam and rock for trippy folk from far and wide. Most significantly, they’ve built up a dedicated fan-base across the East Coast and further, blowing minds at every show and keeping ‘em coming back for more.
They’ve also been recording the album that will truly serve as concrete evidence of their arrival as modern jam greats. Like the Funk EP, Psychology is a collection of simply-named songs (“Moonwalk”, “Upfunk”) - but the simplicity stops there. Pigeons let the music do the talking, filling each of the 13 tracks with irresistible, jaw-dropping funk rock that’s earned them their role as the reigning kings of third-generation jam bands.
Most of the tracks are already familiar to their fans, but have been embellished with extra flavor. The irrefutably groovy horns in lead single “F.U.” are provided by The Hornitz, a looping and improv-dance duo that has been a highlight at every Domefest. “F.U.” is a timeless funk song in the vein of P-Funk: highly danceable, with a perfect balance of irresistible rhythm and face-melting lead, and all about getting down to funk music. Other fan favorites like “Time To Ride” channel their electric performance into highly refined, wonderfully accessible studio versions that justs hint at the power they might hold in a live setting. “Moonwalk” showcases guitar virtuoso Jeremy Schon’s absurd skill at playing just the right licks at the right time. They sound cohesive, tight, and bombastic. Even with slower songs like “Sunny Day,” their playful and powerful energy is palpable the entire album through.
“Julia” is another example of the way that Pigeons capture a timeless sound: some of these songs are so perfectly-crafted that they feel as if they’ve existed for many years. They haven’t – their sounds are as fresh as mountain air – but they should have. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong makes music that needs to exist; they are a band that needs to exist. They fills a space in the musical world that no other band can touch right now.
Besides the funk greats of previous generations, the band’s influence by Phish is undeniable. From their roots in a University of Maryland, College Park dorm room, founding members Greg Ormont and Jeremy Schon started off by covering Phish classics like “Sand” and “Birds of a Feather,” which you can still catch Pigeons playing for sound checks. Phish’s philosophy has always been to expand music into the most unusual, absurdly fun directions possible, while keeping it danceable. Pigeons accomplish this mightily, with both their completely wacky persona as a band and their funk-to-the-max songwriting.
To celebrate the release of Psychology, Pigeons headlined the 9:30 Club for the first time and threw down a jaw-dropping party. This is a band that is creating and encouraging a vibrant community of fans of funky music from across the nation, and with destiny on their side, they can’t go wrong. Just put Psychology on at a party and watch people start grooving.