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album review: pageants, dark before blonde dawn

If you only gave a passing glance to Pageants, you might disregard them as another group of hipsters trying to borrow from the success of genres past (in this instance, beach rock). But Pageants set themselves apart with pessimism and punk undertones that prove them genuine. The Melbourne band are about to release their first full album, Dark Before Blonde Dawn, and it’s packed with jabbing chords and San Cisco sounding harmonies.

The opening song, ‘Persian Fairy Floss’, warns you with its title that you’re about to have a weird listening experience. In under a minute you’ll feel rude for walking in on a song unannounced, quickly slip into holiday-mode due to its tropical chords, scramble for context at odd lyrics, and be graced with a calmly given “fuck”.

The other song titles are just as fun: ‘Cannibal Twilight’, ‘Coconut Ice’ and ‘Acidic Cruise’ all hint at what to expect. Lead singer Ben Pell may have recorded some of his lines underwater, or he may just be borrowing Jim Morrison’s poor diction, but with only three years on the scene, Pageants have quickly developed a unique sound, and they can credit it to their ability to poke fun at themselves.

‘Leisure Vibes’ has got to be the characterising song of the album – I could explain how, or I could just show you the opening lines:

“Waterslides that lead into traps,
Colour photocopies of cats”

In those lyrics are all the expressions of Pageants’ angst, playfulness, simplicity, and possibly drug-induced creativity. The chorus is catchy, though not much more sensible, and the entire song could have easily featured in a Pulp Fiction remake. Even in a song like ‘Leisure Vibes’, Pageants are able to throw a few lines of blunt truth into the mix, like: ‘There are no stupid people like me’.

Several songs sound ready to do the rounds on Triple J, and the October 5 release will give you plenty of time to get the words into your head for a great summer beach trip soundtrack. Keep an ear out for ‘Acidic Cruise’ and ‘Relaxation’ if you’re looking for something a bit cranky to stomp to.

Dark Before Blonde Dawn is what would be playing over the speakers if the punk bands of the ’70s and the folk hipsters of today threw a Hawaiian luau. And though unusual mixing makes listening to Pageants an act of patience, if you can work out the lyrics you’ll be rewarded. It’s an album that will return you to simpler times and remind you to just chill out.

By Jacob Evans

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