It's time to throw that stripy top in the bin.
Whether you're a die-hard fan of Sonic Youth or think it's probably one of the most overrated bands that ever existed (and I'm obviously striking my tent in the sweaty camp of the latter), it's just not possible to argue against the fact that Thurston Moore is a man intent on signing a remarkably eclectic group of pretty young things to his Ecstatic Peace! label - and good on the geezer for that.
Pagoda is no exception. The main man is Michael Pitt, who you might have seen in Gus Van Sant's God-awful movie version of Kurt Cobain's final hours on this planet, 'Last Days'. Annoying, overrated character plus annoying, overrated filmmaker equals annoying, overrated movie in my opinion, so it's a relief to discover that Pitt's real talent is as a singer/songwriter - rather than as an actor who thinks that behaving like a poncy git and wearing stupid glasses and a stripy top is gonna convince anyone that he's a poncy git that wore stupid glasses and a stripy top - and a man so idiotic that he shot himself in the face because he had too much money, too much fame and a wife who resembles Anna Nicole Smith's bloodied tampon. Hang on...have I messed up somewhere? I apologise - give the guy an Oscar.
Although the influences of Nirvana, Moore's own Sonic Youth, and CBGBs New York New Wave are keenly felt, 'Pagoda' is a playful, adventurous and invigorating record - even if the vast majority of its subject matter is as dark as Gary Glitter's sexual predilections.
Chock-full of beautiful orchestration ('Sadartha'); Police-style reggae ('Botous'); yer standard riff-based heart-stoppers ('Amego') and fucked up vocoder-heavy existential rides into the outer (or should that be inner?) reaches of the human psyche ('Fear Cloud', 'I Do'), it's an undeniable blast from start to finish.
Lyrically 'Pagoda' bounces all over the park too. Diatribes on subjects such as the war of terror ('Amego'); forays into narcissistic self analysis ('Voices', 'Death to Birth'); and hedonistic romantic ponderings ('Lesson Learned') might appear to be customary fare at first glance (or should that be listen?) but Pagoda's sheer enthusiasm and raucous attitude take them all to the next level and make you hit that rewind button again and again.
As 'Pagoda' needs - nay, demands to be assessed as a whole pie rather than by the slice, standout tracks are few and far between. However, the resolutely melancholic (and some might argue) conceited lyrics of 'Death to Birth' are made all the more affecting by Pitt's impassioned delivery, the haunting strings arrangement and the doom laden drums, while 'Fetus' is simply a kick-ass track that deserves to hit the heady heights of the number one spot of the singles chart without breaking a sweat.
'Sadartha' sounds like the bastard child of Iggy Pop and Beth Orton with its brash guitars and swashbuckling violins and 'I Do' is all swagger-and-posture but with a heart and a humour (especially the homage to 'Rocket Queen') that sends it stratospheric.
Expertly produced, mixed and engineered by Luca Hendolara, 'Pagoda' is a contender for best album of the year. Quietly and loudly affecting in equal measure, its lyrical simplicity and honesty is matched only by the dexterous musical arrangements and touch-tone perfect performances by Pitt et al. It's a tour-de-force that grabs you by the shirt collar, spits in your face and then buys you a bunch of wilted flowers and a gram of smack to apologise. Priceless.
Trust me: melancholy and infinite sadness has never sounded so good. Fuck Corgan - he's the pits. Michael Pitt and his gang are far more deserving of your time.