Sound — 7
Dark, raw, gritty rock is the clear image projected on the self-titled debut release from New York City's post-grunge, alternative-rock quartet Pagoda. The album is also the band's debut album on Ecstatic Peace Records, the label imprint of Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore. Band members Michael Pitt on lead vocals, Reece Carr on drums, Will Paredes on bass, and Chris Hoffman on cello, congeal noise-rock fusions with experimental chord slides as jagged guitar cuts jolt the transitions and inputs of chamber-pop cello phrasings relax the tempo shifts. Some melodies are sparse with repetitive chord structures like Lesson Learned and Fetus, some tracks are angst-filled with scratchy chord series like Amego and I Do, and some songs begin softly and then build up into fuller layered atmospheres like Alone and Death To Birth. The reggae beats circled by murky guitar hues on Botus is edgy and brims with rage while the emotive movements on Sardartha are mournful as the vocals chew at the melody. The acoustic guitar angles and rhythmic motions have a drowsy feel and slice through the rotations as the sequences melt into each other making heaps of molten impulses.
Lyrics — 6
The lyrics are symbolic of internal struggles, human weaknesses and vulnerabilities speaking with stark honesty and pure rage. The lyrics hold wounds openly like in the track Death To Birth as Pitt recites, We smother each other with the nectar and pucker/The sour bittersweet weather/It blows through the trees/Swims through our seas/Flies through the last gasp we left on this earth/It's long lonely journey from death to birth/Should I die again? Pitt was inspired to explore the human soul during his acting years when he played the part of a troubled teen in such indie films as Last Days, Bully, Murder By Numbers, and The Dreamers. Actor turned musician or musician having acted in films, it is Pitt's songwriting which allows him to interpret people's internal struggles in everyday love/hate relationships.
Overall Impression — 6
Pitt's vocals are so similar to Kurt Cobain that at times it feels like you are listening to Nirvana. The songs share likenesses with the grunge-rock bands of the early '90s and the acoustic-rock musings of modern day artists. There is a lot of experimenting with chord combinations and distorted rhythms to create noise rock masses. It does not seem like Pagoda have stepped into their own sound on this record, but rather they are exploring their capabilities and finding relevance in grunge and alternative rock substances.