Review: PWR BTTM – ‘Pageant’

When they released their debut single ‘Ugly Cherries’ back in summer 2015, it was clear that PWR BTTM were at the beginning of something great. Equal parts pent-up anxiety and resounding belief, the track introduced a band portraying life through all of its woes and its wonder. ‘Pageant’ is the next step in that evolution, building towards something bolder and brighter than ever – and hell knows we need it.

“I can not sit still, never have and never will,” Ben Hopkins sings on opening track ‘Silly’. As the noodling guitar riff expands into stadium-sized refrains, introducing a chorus of brass melodies and skyscraping harmonies, right from the start the record embodies every ounce of larger-than-life energy the duo have been demonstrating live in the two years since their debut, and then some.

Through questions of identity and self-doubt to resounding contentment and rallying anthems, ‘Pageant’ is venture towards finding fulfilment within yourself. A voice of hope and a voice of struggle, the record offers as much empathy and insight as it does conviction and belief.

Giving voice to the dichotomy of mind and body in the stirringly lost yet hopeful title track, and echoing the divide between the mental and the physical on ‘Styrofoam’, the duo lay everything bare. Challenging conceptions of gendered pronouns with the addictive ‘New Trick’, rallying against body shaming on ‘Big Beautiful Day’, and swaggering through a resounding sense of their own contentment on ‘Kids’ Table’, ‘Pageant’ is an expression of life in all of its infinite variety.

Angry, frustrated, excited, and elated, in just over half an hour the band place strength in every emotion. “My teenage angst will be with me well into my thirties,” Liv Bruce sings on ‘Answer My Text’. In the hands of PWR BTTM, relishing in every motion with a flourish of guitar riffs and propelling harmonies, somehow that doesn’t sound quite so bad a way to be after all.

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