ARTIST: Together Pangea
Together Pangea have certainly come a long way from their humble beginnings as a mainstay of the Southern California DIY scene. Their brand of fun-loving and pop-friendly garage rock made them the life of the party, especially as prominent figures in the ever-growing Burger Records family focused on propelling the careers of as many like-minded bands into the limelight of the SoCal garage/bubblegum scene as they can. For a good part of their career, the band seemed to fit right in with that crowd—they were enjoyable and talented, but they seemed to be getting trapped in the confines of the scene. If anything, Badillac is the trio’s response to getting nearly trapped cornered into the dreaded genre pocket. With a new name (they were originally known as simply “Pangea”) and a new labe (Harvest Records), their third LP demonstrates that they can rise above the stereotypical pinnings of the garage rock genre to make something that feels like their own.
What immediately stands out initially is that this is a much darker record than previous efforts—in both musical and lyrical qualities. At times it’s even eerie (especially so in “Badillac” and “Does He Really Care”). In earlier releases of theirs, their guitars always have that reverb-laden twangy quality so characteristic of garage rock. They were raucous and fun and breezy. But in this record, there’s a marked change in how they approach the quality of their guitars, which is exceedingly important in the context of a guitar-driven band. The descriptor that came to mind almost immediately is: sludgy. The guitars on this record are just so dripping with sludgy and dirgey qualities, and the heaviness they create really grounds the record and sets them apart from a great number of their garage-driven contemporaries. In fact, the quality is almost reminiscent of more psych-punk bands like Thee Oh Sees. But beyond the sludgy guitar work is a whole slew of different sounds—from acoustic strumming to soaring solos, they really diversify the repertoire of the record. And underneath it all, each song is rooted in wonderful power pop structures that continue to demonstrate the knack they’ve always had for song-writing.
With these newfound dark qualities comes a sense of lyrical maturity that emerges from experience. The best moments in so many of the songs on this record come from the unadulterated snottiness of Keegan’s vocal style, which is reminiscent of similarly-minded vocalists like Nathan Williams of Wavves. It’s a lot of fun, especially when it’s angsty and brash. But on this record, he really takes a step away from the superficiality of prior lyrical content. In fact, this leap of maturity almost mirrors that of Wavves, who went from superficially beachy to fantastically personal in their most recent release. In Pangea’s case, they’re known for their fun-loving, ‘take nothing seriously’ kind of image, which has made them a real winner with punky party crowds. And their past lyrics reflected that image. But it’s clear the band has reached a point where they have to be self-aware, and it manifests in Keegan’s lyrics. Bits of raw heartfelt emotion pierce through the snottiness as he poignantly reflects on being a part of a hard-partying scene and relationships within it. The pinnacle of this reflection is “River,” where he sings of “excess, waste, and wanting”—the supposed motto of this lifestyle.
It’s clear that this band will always be one that attracts a crowd looking to have fun—from longtime supporters to new and curious listeners. But with this added sheen of maturity and relatability, they’ve created anthems. Like the soaringly anthemic and timeless quality of Celebration Rock elevated the Japandroids to heroic status, there are a lot of nostalgic bits people can grab onto in Badillac that’ll make them feel similar emotions. While it certainly doesn’t reach the heights of the aforementioned record and loses a bit of its punch near the end, there are so many choruses and melodies and handclaps that are worthy of being stuck in your head, sung loud and proud with your hand over your heart in the middle of a raucous mosh pit. It’s a grower that will only get better with time.
“I want to talk with you/I want to make myself true”