Pagoda
"Pagoda"

(Ecstatic Peace 2007)Pagoda - Pagoda

Two years ago, actor Michael Pitt was portraying Blake, a character blatantly and unashamedly based on Kurt Cobain, in Gus Van Sant's film "Last Days." This year, Pitt still seems to be fixated with Cobain as his band Pagoda's debut self-titled full-length release is certainly influenced, to say the least, by the late Nirvana frontman. Under the wing of Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and his Ecstatic Peace! record label, Pagoda has a fighting chance at musical success with their thrashing garage rock that it heavily indebt to the 90s.

But nevermind the aforementioned references to Nirvana. Pagoda's sound is rough and ready rock where the character is not so much in hitting the right notes but in how the band hit them. Orchestral strings lead into the rhythmically heavy grunge meats garage "Lesson Learned" before Pagoda put their attitude first on the shrieking "Amego," a song whose second verse blandly has Pitt repeating "blah blah blah." "Voices" bounces up and down with a rough beat that slides around as the chorus pounds. A lilting reggae beat makes "Botus" jump out from the other tracks on the album before a loud rock chorus makes the sing song melody a bit edgier. Soft ballads come bearing their teeth as they pop up throughout the album, often incorporating smooth, rich strings into the quiet melodies. "Death To Birth" and "Alone" both start quietly before building into a fuller, layered sound that is more than either of the songs initially suggest. "Sidartha" walks the line between being a ballad and a full rock tune with its fluid and dark melody.

With their raw attitude and spirit, Pagoda has an indescribable appeal. Gritty guitar rock dominates Pagoda's debut effort but the band knows dynamics are important. Often quieting for short periods -- to the point where you, impulsively, turn your stereo's volume up -- Pagoda want to grab your attention and keep you in the palm of their hand. But they also want your patience as they go off into occasional experimental moments towards the album's end. While their album is not the most original rock sound, Pagoda performs with such conviction you cannot disregard their music or them.

B

buy it!