It's 2005: Gus van Sant releases another part of his Death Trilogy: Last Days, a movie depicting the demise of a very Cobain-like character called Blake. It tore the fans of Nirvana apart; some loved it, others hated it. Arguments ranged from "Peeing on Kurt's legacy" to "a beautiful homage to Kurt's final days." During the movie Blake plays a rather melancholic and sad song called "Death to Birth," a song that completely captures the spirit of Blake's demise.
Few know that lady's favorite Michael Pitt is actually a musician in his own right, and that "Death to Birth" is his very own song, performed by Pagoda, the band of which Pitt is both the lead singer as well as the lead guitarist, just like... you got it, Kurt Cobain. Cobain's legacy reaches far and that's painfully obvious in Pitt's case. Even before Pagoda released their first self-titled album, they were already burned as well as hailed, some calling them just another Nirvana rip-off, others praising them as the saviors of grunge itself.
With Pagoda's album finally in my CD-player it is time for Judgement Day. Are they just another Nirvana rip-off like many have claimed? Is Pitt just another Jared Leto, an actor turned rock star? The short answer is no. Pagoda is not the new Nirvana (for better and for worse), nor the side-project of a would-be rock star. Pagoda is just Pagoda, and I'm completely comfortable with that.
Pagoda's debut album refers to (in song, as well as spoken recordings) abortion, Buddhists, 9/11, weapons of mass destruction, insanity, loneliness and Mexico. Curious about the latter subject? Well, you should be! I won't say much here, but those two songs have become my personal favorites. Most songs on the album are fun, and occasionally even good, not because they're the result of musical brilliance, but because of the lyrical insanity meeting the perfect musical environment. These elements make for an enjoyable indie/grunge pancake, which is topped by the maple syrup that's Pitt's enthusiastic vocal work.
However, there is bad stuff as well. The album length is one of them: ten songs, and only eight are worth listening. Pagoda barely reaches over forty-five minutes in total, including the random spoken recordings, improv, and hidden track. Also, for people who followed the band from its beginnings, it has all the songs of the demo, so if you own that very demo; it's more of an EP for you, especially since no songs of the demo were re-recorded.
Pagoda's debut album is a good listen and worth the buy. Not perfect, but it definitely manages to stand out from the indie/garage/grunge crowd.
7.5 / 10
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