Despite being a totally reasonable and sweet dude to chat with, Rick Maguire's got issues. Fortunately for music fans, the Acton-born 27-year-old has a band to help him work through the various hauntings visited upon him. The five-year-old quartet Pile, among the brightest of Boston's bursting subterrane, makes waltz-time, feel-bad guitar music that is gothic in the non-eyeliner sense: angular songs express the sort of specific, primal anxieties that litter a liberal-arts undergrad's coursework. There's a song about Maguire's genitalia being cut off, another hypothesizes spiders are living in his butt, yet another bemoans "trying to keep up by running in place."
Performing not long ago at O'Brien's in Allston, Pile summoned forth this and other bad mojo and then annihilated it under a tsunami of drop-tuned guitars, pummeling drums, and Maguire's caterwauled drawl. The deliverance from evil sounded like the musical mean of the two sides of Sub Pop's coveted 1993 Jesus Lizard/Nirvana split, and it inspired spirited moshing among fans who were fist-pounding out the jams in time with Maguire, drummer Kris Kuss, bassist Matt Connery, and Matt Becker, Pile's original bassist who has returned as a second guitarist.
Electrifying shows are the foundation of Pile's reputation here and across the country. You know you've been out on tour a lot when you have to stop to figure out how many there've been. And you have to do calculations. And it takes two people. "Kris and I just did the math and . . . actually, I don't know," Maguire confessed in the band's unevenly lit Allston practice space earlier this month. A moment later, something definitive: "Eleven. Eleven tours."
This week, Pile launches a 12th: 19 dates plunging down the coast to Florida, culminating in a homecoming November 21 at the Middle East with Sub Pop signatories Metz and Pile's Exploding In Sound Records labelmates Speedy Ortiz. The occasion for the latest road trip is the release last Tuesday of Dripping, its commanding fourth set of throbbing, dynamic, dual-guitar howlers. The record is the band's first on a label, and also the first featuring Becker back in the fold.
"It's been sweet being able to play with two guitars now," Maguire enthused. "It was definitely kind of a challenge, trying to coordinate all that: getting different tones, filling space, not being too overwhelming." That element of control is the yin powering the cathartic yang that is Pile's most potent weapon: release. From the stentorian opening of "Baby Boy" to the creepy Chicago-styled bludgeoning of "Grunt like a Pig," Dripping shines with a sophistication and tunefulness too pronounced to be called sludgy, and it catches fire when the band pulls out the stops and Maguire's full-throated bellowing takes over. But Maguire hasn't quite let go of his issues: there is, after all, always another record to write, a 13th tour to mount.
PILE + METZ + SPEEDY ORTIZ :: Middle East upstairs, 472 Mass Ave, Cambridge :: November 21 :: 8 pm doors :: $9 :: mideastclub.com