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"Pagoda"
Universal Music
Release Date February 27, 2007

Reviewed by Eric Atienza


The self-titled debut from Brooklyn based four-piece Pagoda begins with a modest, reedy cello, a simple bass line and a time warp back to 1992. As the guitars and vocals cut in on first track “Lesson Learned” they conjure instant auditory images of early Nirvana and Smash-era Offspring. From the fuzz and distortion in the guitars to the frequent switches from a deliberate, plodding rhythm to raucous noise, the band is an exact snapshot of late grunge/early alternative rock. The resemblance is so strong in fact, that it crosses the line of keeping old sounds fresh by incorporating them into new music and ventures into the territory of trying to fully resurrect a style whose musical peak has long since passed. While the first few tracks are certainly energetic they are incredibly derivative and conjure a desire to listen to the fifteen year old records of Pagoda’s influences more than Pagoda’s record itself.

As the album progresses the band begins to branch out musically. “Voices” displays tinges of later alternative and bits of the brand of blues-tinted rock that has been gaining prominence in recent years. The guitars get thicker through “Botus” and “Sadartha” presenting a lingering, haunting isolation that reaches its apex in “Alone”. By the final track Pagoda manages to move from a simple Nirvana tribute band to a rock group infusing its grunge influences with its own little twists and elements from acts that made it past the turn of the century.

Unfortunately it never totally overcomes its major weakness: paper thin vocals that are strictly tied to an all too conventional rhythm. Michael Pitt’s voice often stretches lines to fit a rigid framework which frequently leaves verses sounding unnatural and unconvincing. He explores interesting themes in tracks like the politically charged “Fetus” – the strongest song of the album – but fails to create an overall consistent and compelling vocal presence.

Front to back the record shows a promising growth of style and there are occasional glimpses of unique originality but in the end the group is hampered by continually trying far too hard to measure up to a band and a movement whose shoes nobody can truly fill.

For more on Pagoda, log onto: http://www.myspace.com/pagodamusic



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