Great Pagans - Great Pagans [EP]
I began with the belief that Great Pagans' self-titled EP was a contradiction in terms. Self-evident on the lead track 'Teenage Silhouettes' is such a paradigm. Beginning with what becomes their signature delectable and hazy melancholy, Great Pagans pursue a symbiosis of one entity with itself. The astounding reality being that the 'self' of Great Pagans is one which is counter-intuitive yet diverse. The dark side of 'Teenage Silhouettes' clatters into the original shard of the song and shatters it into fragments; unsettling though it may be, it's exactly what this EP needs more of.
In many ways this is the collaboration of separation. Each tonal element of Great Pagans' sound, although not so in isolation, portend towards something wholesome with depth and consideration when taken collectively. They marry understated and rudimentary percussion to reverberating lead guitar that cuts through the former with a clinical simplicity; dueting harmonies gently graze against one another whilst accommodating rhythmical guitar interpositions. Sonically they create moods which tow the line of familiarity whilst rewarding you with interestingly crafted compositional arrangements. The instrumentation tends to bristle with comforting caresses while the lead vocal spins a melodic sanctuary for the listener to retreat to at any point.
Ultimately though, there is something quite underwhelming as well. The lyrics often encourage the accompaniment of others, referring with 'we' as if you were the other intrepid romantic on the voyage of serendipity. Trouble is, it's near impossible to feel anything other than placid contentment never mind heart-wrenching desperation or unrelenting joy. Great Pagans have a wonderful talent for conjuring sun-soaked, blissful half-ballads and despite the odd interjection of energetic and unfamiliar reverb-shy guitar bridging it's difficult to escape the dream-like bubble that has otherwise been created.
The sound is, by now, classic indie-pop. Listen to the EP and it will remind you of many others, perhaps a decade old by this point. Not to say this is outdated though. There are six songs, which, by many people's standards will be considered a wonderful antidote or companion to misery and disruption. But when you consider that this music clearly positions itself as some kind of device for teenage-related emotional outpouring (as most indie music does) I find it to contain a little too much self-awareness. The ideas are often loosely defined stranding the lyrics as a benign vehicle for the melody. "I've not been myself lately" being an important example; universally relatable and the vehicle for a typical yet empowering chorus. That may be fine for a festival one-off or even radio play, but for repeated listening it disappoints.
Lamenting ideas find themselves absorbed into optimistic constructions; and lilting echoes likewise cover any lyrical connection rather than providing a canvas for further exploration. Yet, for these disappointments Great Pagans have achieved something remarkable. Unquestionably, within any genre of the last twenty years the explosion of indie music and its various transformations have been the most saturated with output; particularly from a UK standpoint. So as Great Pagans perhaps struggle for a voice within their music, they most certainly have established their sound as one which is definably indie yet irreverently their own.
If you want to hear an album to change your life this is perhaps not the cure for such viscous wounds; but if you, like me, remember the days of indie's most majestic and meaningful approach; one bristling with the irrepressibility of youth; then Great Pagans approach might just be the anecdote that was left unsaid, at least from a musical point of view anyway.