Some “garage” bands find a crowd-pleasing formula and stick with it from album to album—but together PANGEA (who actually prefer to practice in their living room) has never been so simple to pin down. And “the Phage,” together PANGEA’s first EP since their triumphant return to Burger Records, with full-frontal production by Tommy Stinson (ex-Replacements), proves that success has not tamed their creativity or their insistent need to find the next great rock sound that pleases them.
With huge, growing numbers of fans and a sweltering summer tour presence, together PANGEA are now at the top of their game, with absolute freedom to record what they wish, and a loyal fan base that has swelled to accept all the love they have to give.
Listen to a copy of “The Phage.” Just play it. You’ll hear the difference, not just from other bands out there, but from anything you’ve heard these guys play before. Neither a retrospective nor a radical departure, this small collection of disparate songs somehow has everything, from nods to the band’s early days (e.g. the adolescent frustrations of “Awful”) to explorations of their more recent pits of personal, adult loneliness. Some songs have aw-shucks ennui backed with crunchy-as-fuck guitars, like the arena-filling alt-rock bands Stinson might have played with in the 80s and 90s (the Pixies, Weezer, Dinosaur Jr., Uncle Tupelo), while others evoke snippets of modern contemporaries like Guantanamo Baywatch or Shannon & the Clams (wow, soak in those Muppety doo-wop falsettos backing up “My Head Is on Too Tight!”).
Maybe the only thing these songs actually share in common with each other is an insistence that less is more: less instruments, fewer takes, and minimal studio trickery. Vocalist William Keegan even recorded his words in running order, song by song, in one long track, taking less than an hour altogether to do perhaps the best vocal takes of his life. You might hear a few vintage keyboards on here (or, in one case, a little Creation-style violin-bow feedback on the guitar), but in general, these songs are tour-ready! They’re playable in full by the band’s current incarnation as a guitar-bass-drums trio, and would be loud and intense even if just strummed on an acoustic guitar at a beach barbeque party.
If together PANGEA has any holdover at all from last year’s more elaborate Badillac, recorded at Harvest Records, it’s that their new sound is clean, perfectly recorded and perfectly mixed. “We’ve definitely moved away from that lo-fi thing,” bassist Danny Bengston admits. Keegan elaborates: “I don’t like the muddy, washed-out stuff. I’ve just heard it so much!” He prefers the mystery in the lyrics and notes of his band that you CAN hear to the ones you can’t. And you will, too.
A garage band that’s not lo-fi? Lesser minds might call that a contradiction in terms. But it’s not the only rule that together PANGEA has gleefully broken, or that they might choose to break soon if they damn well feel like it. And their instincts have paid off, in both artistic and commercial successes.
This is a band that knows their next song could save someone’s marriage, or play at someone’s funeral, or help launch another dozen bands that may someday provide a whole new fan base for the together PANGEA sound to grow old with. ‘Til then, together PANGEA is releasing their new EP “The Phage” via Burger Records on October 16, 2015, to be followed by a world tour and a long-playing album by Christmas time. It’s a good time to be this band! And it’s an even better time to get to know them.