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Album Review

Based on the rapid rate that bands in the 2000s recycled the sounds from previous decades, such as '70s post-punk and '80s new wave, a revival of early-'90s grunge and alt-rock was due right around 2007. Enter Pagoda, the project of actor/musician Michael Pitt, who played a tortured, suicidal rock star in Gus Van Sant's Last Days, which was inspired by the tortured, suicidal rock star, Kurt Cobain. While it's too easy to draw a parallel between Pitt's and Cobain's music just because Pitt played a Cobain-like figure — and too convenient to dismiss Pagoda as an actor's musical vanity project — it's hard to deny that Nirvana are a major inspiration on Pagoda's self-titled debut album. Pagoda are more experimental and expansive than the definitive grunge band's work (with the exception of "Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through the Strip"), but Pitt's nasal, raspy vocals and the lunging chord changes that dominate the album feel directly descended from Cobain and company. That's not a bad thing in and of itself, but large stretches of Pagoda just don't work. Too much of the album spends a lot of time doing very little with the band's sound, but when they pull that sound into focus, Pagoda have potential. "Lesson Learned" and "Sadartha" have a visceral pull despite Pitt's occasionally grating vocals, and the cellos on these tracks add depth. The ballad "Death to Birth" (which appeared in Last Days) is a highlight, as is "Alone," which takes the band's brooding in a heavier direction. "Fetus"' looping song structure and tempo shifts and the noise rock collage of "Fear Cloud" hint that Pitt and crew might have more ideas than the rest of this album displays, but they need more development.


Genre: Rock

Years Active:

A project of actor/singer/guitarist Michael Pitt, Pagoda were formed in 2001 when Pitt met fellow actor/musician Ryan Donowho, who played drums. Friends such as Christian Zucconi of the band Aloke filled Pagoda's revolving bassist position. The band made its recorded debut with "Muskrat," which appeared on the soundtrack of The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, director Asia Argento's film adaptation of J.T. Leroy's novel. Pagoda added cellist Indigo Ruth Davis to the fold, and in 2004 they went...
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Pagoda, Pagoda
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