Together Pangea - Badillac

Los Angeles-area garage rock outfit Together Pangea find the sweet spot between angsty fun and mature introspection on third LP.

Additional Info

8.2

ALBUM: Badillac

ARTIST: Together Pangea

2014

Alternative

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”

1. Alive
As an opening track, “Alive” does a fantastic job of demonstrating the band’s punk competency. It unfolds like an Oh Sees track: ambient buzzing erupts into a sludgy guitar lick. But what really makes it soar is the double-time rhythm changeups every couple bars—disorienting and pleasurable all at once. Keegan’s snotty vocal delivery is also at its peak here, meshing brilliantly with the snarls of the fast-paced riffs. It’s a real treat of an opener.9.0
2. Make Myself True
After the raucous opener of “Alive,” they calm down a bit with this track to make way for a different kind of heavy-hitting tug—one of the heartstrings. Though they’ve crafted some strong instrumentation with their prototypical heavy guitars, the real magic lies in the lovelorn lyrics that are practically drenched with heartache. “I want to talk with you/I want to make myself true,” he pleads in the chorus, almost sounding like he’s on the verge of tears. Tracks like this one really show their ever-evolving maturity in songwriting.9.0
3. Badillac
Even as the album’s tone gets darker, the band shows that they can make classic pop structures compelling. This mid-tempo romp features prominent acoustic guitar that’s fuzzed out and jangly, adding to the borderline haunting vibe it conveys. Relating back to the title of this track, hearing it almost conjures an image of cruising through an old graveyard in a run-down Cadillac (with the band whispering in your ear from the back seat).8.0
4. Does He Really Care
This track continues with the creepy vibes of the minor key like the prior track, but turns up the heat in a big way. They jaunt and jangle at rip-roaring tempos, taking a break every so often to drop a plunky bassline down the scale—matching the melody of the vocals. It’s like the title track on steroids, especially as it clocks in at a mere one and a half minutes.8.5
5. River
This is one of those rare perfect gems that sounds effortless while at the same time has the ability to conjure up a whole slew of emotions in the listener. Musically, it’s a wonderful power-pop number with a simple chord progression that just drips with nostalgia. But the real sweetness is how it meshes with Keegan’s thoughtful introspection on being young and reckless. “Excess, waste, and wanting,” he repeats like he’s describing the cyclical nature of the lifestyle. Despite being a one-note melody for a good portion of the song, the passion in his voice really comes through, especially as the tension and volume build and explode into the heartfelt “oooh” section at the end. You might get it stuck in your head for days; you might be compelled to fist pump with a single tear running down your cheek –it’s a true anthem.10.0
6. Offer
The B-Side of a previous single (Snakedog), this track definitely gets the spotlight it deserves here on the album. It’s a perfect midpoint for the album that’s been descending into dark and raucous territory: starting off with some minor acoustic strums and the line “I’m haunted” (they finally say it!), they add more sonic layers of fuzz as the song progresses to create a nice and steady build. It’s the little things too—the guitar and vocal melodies often coincide, which proves to be very pleasurable to the ears.8.0
7. Depress
This is definitely one of the heaviest cuts on the album—the vocals and guitars are fuzzed out beyond comprehension and the angst really cuts deep. However, it’s pretty predictable and one of the most forgettable on the album, though it’s still a solid jam.7.0
8. Sick Shit
This simple yet powerful cut demonstrates that it’s possible to mix introspection and utter raunchiness with successful results. It starts out with a 90s grunge vibe—simple guitar strums under vocals that join in until it adds a raucous beat. Because Keegan’s vocals are somewhat distanced from the instrumentation, they stand out: he half-croons of his heart being lost and his dick being soft (almost quite as literally), which creates an interesting dichotomy between love and lust that’s relatable for many.8.0
9. Cat Man
This cut is pretty unadulterated post-punk with some psychedelic flourishes. The best bit is the jaunty guitar line in the beginning that seems to float over the fuzz and drums. It quickly grows into an expansive and fuzzed out guitar mess that’s a little too reminiscent of Thee Oh Sees. The lyrics are also pretty peculiar and nonsensical, though they’re up for interpretation.7.5
10. Why
This track could have been one of the forgettable ones, since it feels just a bit too slow and a bit too predictable, but a few components save it from this oblivion. The first verse is incredibly clever (“I’m so tired of being tired/I just spend to get spent”), and the purely desperate yelps from Keegan at the very end are just so refreshing. They definitely make it worth listening the song all the way through.8.0
11. No Way Out
This is the band’s venture in an almost completely acoustic ballad. They’re definitely taking cues from Mikal Cronin’s latest effort (intentionally or subconsciously), especially with the richness added from the cello line. While it’s refreshing to hear them trying something different, it’s not as compelling as it could have been, falling into a predictable and almost boring rhythm. There’s just this weird tension that builds that never gets released.7.0
12. When the Night Ends
Equal parts sludgy and raunchy, this slow burner feels right placed at the end of this record. Even the title is a perfect wrap-up. It ends with one of the greatest guitar solos on the record—psychedelic and noisy, until it fades into a satisfying release.8.0
Written by Hailey Simpson
Now attending college at UC Berkeley, Hailey's main passions in life are attending every concert she possibly can while keeping up with her studies, drinking copious amounts of Philz Coffee, and spinning tunes on her college radio station KALX.



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