Pigeons or Panthers
(Pretty Blue Presents, 2008)
Pigeons or Panthers know exactly what they’re doing. In the six songs they self-recorded for their Helen EP they present us with complex-yet-catchy melodies played with studied precision on a large arsenal of varied instruments. The influences are wide ranging, from hints of calypso to short forays into disco, but they could all be summed up in comparisons to bands like Man Man, Islands, or The Black Heart Procession. While I enjoy all of these songs, both individually and as a whole EP, I find myself left with a puzzling feeling that something isn’t right. I say puzzling because I think these are creative and original songs arranged with style and performed with technique that adhere to an overall cohesive sound. So what’s missing?
To preface, this website is called What I Think About Your Music. These reviews are written under that name because they are all the sole opinion of the writer and his/her thoughts about music and how it should sound. That said, in the opinion of this reviewer, I can’t feel a shred of sincerity or conviction in the songs on Pigeons or Panthers’ Helen EP. When they sing about the apocalypse in opener “Twenty Twelve” or the imminent end of all things in “Socratic Death” I hear no fear or, alternately, acceptance in their voices. On “Chimpanzees” I can’t feel the absurdity implied by comparing our modern life to that of a monkey’s. Everything I hear on this CD is done perfectly by the book, but without any heart. Is it because of the lack of intensity in the vocal delivery? Is it because of the self-recorded, self-mixed, self-mastered sound quality? Is it because of the fledging status of the band? I can’t say exactly why this important element is missing, but I can say that it is.
The music featured on Helen EP is unique, enjoyable, and occasionally even memorable. The members of Pigeons or Panthers have innovative ideas about what experimental indie music should sound like, and they execute their ideas across the 6 songs of the release with great care. As a whole, however, the songs sound like emotionless exercises in music instead of visceral experiences to be shared with an audience. The members of the band most likely mean every note they strike and every word they sing, but, armed only with this EP, you couldn’t convince me of it.