By all accounts, together PANGEA may be more surprised by the creative liberties taken on Badillac, their third full-length LP and first for Harvest Records, than anyone else. After all, articulating the underground ascent of the band is difficult if you’ve not even semi-frequented dives and dingy venues as recently as a year-and-a-half ago. Whether shopping tunes from their excellent Killer Dreams EP and their second full-length Living Dummy to tall boy-hurling punks, or serenading lover boy lullabies to glossy-eyed dreamers in dead-end saloons, those halcyon early days amounted to a kind of marination for vocalist/guitarist William Keegan’s gritty garage sermons.
They’ve now been aged to near-perfection.
Let me digress by stating simply: Badillac is an exceptional album, as well as a great title track. For all the cryptic, adolescent symbolism of whatever a “Badillac” might be, the thrust of the song is propelled by a swinging rock ‘n’ roll anthem coupled with the sort of non-sequitur abandon that can only accompany a broken heart.
As such, betrayal comes in many forms on the album, with ripcord riffs slicing through snottily melodic vocals and smart movement changes. Keegan pays mention to “lying” and “trying” in the choruses of both the title track and the B-side scorcher “Why.” Confusion and disillusion permeate throughout.
By the sixth track, the contemplative “Offer,” together PANGEA take a sharp turn toward the more demure—for them little more than focusing less on the breakneck pace of the first five songs—utilizing folkier elements folded within otherwise sneering garage-punk slammers. Long-shot comparisons to early Nirvana don’t seem so farfetched on tunes like the choppy screamer “Depress,” and you’d be hard-pressed to find many bands who can pull off as seamless a melodic screamer as the single-worthy “Sick Shit.” Later, “Cat Man” fully embraces, if even by accident, the band’s grungy tribute, replete with quiet-loud-quiet dynamics and full-bodied pissed-offedness.
The Neil Young-ish “No Way Out” spotlights together PANGEA’s softer side by way of an acoustic ballad accompanied by strings and pensive lyricism. Keegan sings, “I know what you are thinking/I know what you have done/Even if you haven’t done it/I know I’m not the only one,” like a man coming to terms with his own paranoia.
A hidden, untitled track, finds Keegan serenading a lonely night with only electric guitar and the anthemic verse, “Drop dead city/drop dead town/she ain’t so pretty/when the shit goes down.” If ever there were a more fitting love ode to Los Angeles…
The strength of the B-side alone is enough to champion the singularity of a group who without their penchant for opening the goddamn garage to let some light in may have been run over by the bandwagon.