Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Not sure if it's the Southern man in Chase Pagan or just the man in him that makes him go there, but the places that he visits in his songs are full of the prickly issues and the kinds of eggshells that are easy to squish into a crunchy goo of suspended life, into a messy hive of contemplative fodder. He pokes and stirs up the dust, getting all of the colorful things that people do talk about at parties - when they've been churning and working into their own for a few hours, when the open bar has been thrust open with a vengeance - into the room, balancing them off of the melting ice sculptures and alongside the heated games of darts and beer pong. This is when meaty guys start loosely calling lots of different people and things gay or retarded, abusing and bludgeoning their already poor choice of language. It's when those guys also start talking about hot girls they've banged - all their words, not ours. They'll - and this is now including any kind of guy, not just the boneheaded ones -- get into specifics and turn on the raunchiness, even if it's just for show, even if they had genuine feelings for the poor girl from some night out on the town or a series of weeks where they might have been something more. The scruples just diminish sometimes, down to peas, and then you find some conversations worth eavesdropping in on. And even later into the night, it's when the egos and the muscles start having flings with other egos and muscles, throwing themselves around a little too much, sloshing up against each other and creating a friction between alcohol and skin that can only come erroneously or foolishly. It's when the shouting and the pushing, the egging on and the restraining start to take place and then the whole mood is threatened and everyone checks out for the night or winds up watching Saved By The Bell reruns on TBS.
Pagan, a gentleman from the great state of Arkansas, digs into these three pillars of a night's ruggedness, exposing them for their rich history of agony and misunderstanding. He writes about a boy dressing like a girl and leaving the house in front of a disapproving father in "Don't Be Gay (Working Title)," finds plenty of things to mull over in a series of songs with war and soldier themes and even gets to the heart of a relationship (with the help of backing vocals from another Arkansas resident and Daytrotter favorite Christopher Denny - he sings the woman's voice part) between a man visiting Nevada and a hooker there who's hoping unluckily for a way out of her line of work. These are the tales of so many, so many discouraged and broken people, stuck living the way they're living if only because it's a comfortable feeling. And even in the bowels of these lives there can be moments of incandescence that Pagan does equally as well, with his lovely falsetto. He sprinkles these little pills in there, his odes to climates and weather conditions - the seasons as they appeal to him - right alongside the songs that are partly sarcastic, but still altogether, or at least partially the stuff of the everyman.
The songs about war and fighting are lofty, containing choruses that can fill the air up full, but they're meant as startling truths that are meant to make more people gasp in horror than actually do. War is now so commonplace for so many, a job for some, and a bane for most, though there are those who feel that intense power in shooting a gun and killing and Pagan sings to them, "A soldier always gets to shoot" and he or she always gets a war if one is wanted. He carries with his words a carefree and light feel that takes them into a realm of philosophy, that observation of man and woman at their best and worst, though they're unaware that anyone's looking. We're just a part of the spanning look, a picture without borders that's written completely in fine print, the print that he and everyone else are attempting to make out that backs his thought, "Nobody ever figures out how to live until they grow old," and that's the real confusion maker.
*Essay originally published June, 2009