For several generations of punk-derived indie rock fans, the attitude toward late-70s stadium rock has been defined by Johnny Rotten’s famous Pink Floyd t-shirt with “I Hate” scrawled above the band’s name. The slickness of 70s Album-Oriented Rock is still out of fashion in indie music, but in 2007, the previously derivative post-rock band Maserati busted out with Inventions for the New Season, which incorporated a tremendous new rhythm section and a new preoccupation with the glossy, guitar-delay techniques of David Gilmour and The Edge — think Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell” or every song by U2. Their new album — Pyramid of the Sun, the last with the late drummer Jerry Fuchs — continues their experimentation with that sound, and delivers reliably precise and driving post-rock instrumentals that merge the melodrama of post-rock with a retro prog-rock futurism.
Maserati can be thought of as coming from a tradition of indie bands that take a trope from an unjustly maligned genre of music and make it the centerpiece of their sound, albeit in an indie context and for an indie audience, as with The Fucking Champs and the cock-rock double-lead-guitar, Trans Am and the vocoder, or pretty much any alt-country band of the 90s and the pedal steel guitar. For someone raised not on a diet of MTV or R&B slow jams, but instead on an endless rotation of immaculately produced, endless electric guitar solos broadcast on the local classic rock station that was playing in my parents’ car, this is my hypnagogic pop. Maserati vamps tirelessly on an endless loop of slick “The Wall” verses that mercifully never coalesce into “The Wall” choruses, and thus create, for me, at least, an evocative sort of monorail through hell: an only very distantly electric blooz-derived, slick song-world that ultra-competently sets up a geometric Hot Wheels track, races around it a few times, and then politely takes it down and puts it away.
The songs on Pyramid serve admirably as precise and severe mood pieces; they are great for rocking out to while one devotes half a mind to something else. “We Got the System to Fight the System” is a great song title, which is important for an instrumental band with aspirations to a cinematic sound, but the song is not nearly as challenging as the close listener might wish. Having not lived in this album as I have Inventions, I can’t vouch for its endurance, but it seems more diverse than its predecessor, particularly in the guitar-epic closer “Bye M’friend, Goodbye,” Fuchs’ final recording with the band, and a messy piece of melodic solo-guitar excess that stands out from the otherwise immaculate album.
If Maserati’s best song, “Monoliths,” from their 2009 split with Zombi, was summed up in a t-shirt, it would be a Mogwai t-shirt with “I LOVE Pink Floyd” scrawled on it. This era of the band has possibly come to an end with the death of their gifted drummer, but their recent 12-inch release that included The Field’s remix of “Pyramid of the Moon” points perhaps to a new life as a source of Kompakt-inspired chimes that needs only the pulse of a glitch to drive itself forward. The Field’s remix is a glorious wisp of a song, but its subtlety and linear development do nothing to undermine the craft and precision of the original recordings on this album, which have a superhuman development all their own that will be sorely missed when the band inevitably moves on.