Everyone has bouts of depravity. Or torturous spasms of mayhem, in which every thought crashes with a snide “fuck it,” or an object broken in the corner of the room, or a half-dozen regrettable text messages, depending on your tolerance. These stretches act as mental releases of orgasmic potential, winded truths that bruise and warrant a happy-go-lucky goodie bag of irate laughter, prescription drugs, boats of alcohol, or nights of rusty sex. Maybe I’m just a nutbar, but this is all I hear out of together PANGEA’s third album and Harvest Records debut, Badillac.
“Livin’ a lie and you don’t even care,” William Keegan screams, opening up the 33-minute firecracker. From beginning to end, the album’s a tireless squeeze of nihilistic angst cremated in the type of fire that kept Detroit warm in the early ’70s, or teenagers sane outside 7-Elevens in the ’90s. Hold up, though; this isn’t sexy, or sleazy, or even brave rock ‘n’ roll — and slackers they’re not. They’re simply three souls in the Greater Los Angeles area who shoved and hollered their way through enough DIY shows to survive amidst garage rock royalty a la Ty Segall, Wavves, or Mikal Cronin.
True to any young musician’s style, Keegan has expressed a disinterest in any label, however. As he explains in their official site’s biography: “It might be confusing for people, assuming we’re like this garage punk band and then hearing this record. But we really don’t want to get trapped at all.” If they play their cards right, that shouldn’t be a problem. After all, Badillac treads through a rolodex of emotions, conforming to a style that’s only straightforward in its structure.
Skip ahead from The Trashmen-styled pop of “River” to the straining Seattle melancholy of “No Way Out” six tracks later, and you’d swear your library swapped in a new album. It’s a process, this Badlllac, an intriguing facet to the package given that they wrote close to 30 tracks during its recording sessions. “There are songs where it doesn’t feel like they fit,” Keegan says in the same bio. “At some point, I was like, maybe we should try some of the songs that don’t necessarily fit. Because I realized that they do fit — they’re just different.”
It’s an approach that could destroy some records, but on Badillac, that variation makes the 33 minutes feel almost like 50 without exhausting the ears. Each song’s granted the full attention any band might give to a major label effort, which explains epic additions like Melody Yenn’s sweeping cello work on “No Way Out” to something as small as bassist Danny Bengston’s harmonica fills on the title track. Few albums debut with such stable maturity, which says more about the band than the work itself.
Unlike last year’s similar breakthrough act, post-punk rockers Parquet Courts, together PANGEA aren’t exactly the most verbose folks. You’ll be hard pressed to salvage as many stories out of Badillac‘s 12 tracks as most listeners did with Light Up Gold. However, these tracks aren’t for the mind but for the nerves. They’re a variety of chalky tasting moods, all under the same anxious umbrella — no doubt influenced by Keegan’s then-struggling relationship. He hates himself (“Badillac”), he’s haunted (“Offer”), and he’s “tired of being tired” (“Why”). “I only feel alive at night/ Keep you in my mind, I’ll try,” he pines on “Make Myself True”. Well, Christ, even the likes of Alex J. Murphy (OCP Crime Prevention Unit 001) would shiver from that.
After Badillac, you’ll want to play drums like Erik Jimenez; you’ll want to sing and scream with ease like Keegan; you’ll want to flip from bubbles to bops as Bengston does on his four-string; and, most of all, you’ll want to play it again. This is the album Palma Violets needed to make last year, the album Ty Segall would have listened to all summer long. It’s moody, it’s fun, and it’s the sort of thing I want to believe in — one of those rare listens where you think, Okay, I get this… and I think it gets me.
That’s why when Keegan insists “there’s no way out” towards the end, I’m all like, “Okay, dude.”
Essential Tracks: “River”, “Why”, and “Badillac”