If these guys are not from Athens (of the Georgia variety), they certainly should be. At a push, they may have relocated to Portland at some point. And if they’re not squatting in 2017 having landed in a time machine from the already nostalgic early noughties, they should be that too. Pageant by PWR BTTM – a somewhat twee contraction of “Power Bottom” – is a fine enough record but boy does it remind of a whole host of other quirky, kooky, wry and utterly self-aware American bands. You know the drill – namechecks Pavement whilst sounding a touch more mainstream. Just a touch.
Across all 13 tracks, it has a pop sensibility with a whiff of an alternative edge. Fair enough but a bit too easy to imagine drifting about in the background of a slacker movie featuring Natalie Portman, almost certainly featuring Zach Braff somewhere or other. Or perhaps even providing a montage moment for Zach in Scrubs if that time machine was still functional. Attitude is all with PWR BTTM.
On the plus side, Pageant is broadly pretty lively. You certainly can’t fault it for lack of jangly, puppy dog enthusiasm. But it is just that – puppy dog. Almost all very look at me and begging for attention. Guitars jostle about, rousing vocals are tossed about and you’re positively entreated to get swept up and bounce around. All the while maintaining a masquerade of substance that, to these ears, just isn’t there. It’s needy music that needs you to enjoy it. And you bloody well will, right here and right now! Woe betide you don’t if the positively alarming ‘Answer My Text‘ is anything to go by.
More downbeat tracks like ‘Styrofoam‘ are perhaps the most successful. Still, pretty derivative coming across a little like Think Tank-era Blur but at least without the draining attention seeking of the earlier, more jolly tracks. There is real craft in the melody here and a relaxed sense of space. This is a good thing. A focus in this direction has potential to produce real results.
Glammed and glittered duo Ben Hopkins and Liv Bruce have conjured up a record that perhaps makes more sense on stage. They are by all accounts a pretty thrilling live proposition and, without meaning to be trite, they certainly look the part. I want to go to a bar with the pair of them. Heck, several bars, even. I just want to bugger off home when it reaches quirky o’clock and it’s time to get affected.
A first listen to Pageant reveals a note saying, “try harder, ideally with different songs and different musicians“. This is a tad unfair. Repeated listens highlight moments of real promise. Spiky guitars and attitude can be shoved in a more successful direction than the majority of songs here. With trepidation, bring on the next record.
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