Pardoner : Peace Loving People

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Pardoner Peace Loving People review

To some ears, Pardoner probably sound like they couldn’t care less. Brevity is often the name of the game, with fuzzed-out production and slacker vocals making up their throwback sound. But they’ve come to the party—gladly still cynical and jaded—with surprise gifts on every short serving from fourth outing Peace Loving People, the band’s follow-up to 2021’s Came Down Different

Now distanced from the core’s San Francisco hometown, vocalist Max Freeland’s relocation to Vancouver home has not affected the group’s chemistry. Their respective locations and their notably musical in-between feels like sonic fuel to the four-piece’s knack for clashing sounds together rather than seamlessly mixing them. The result is a head-spun freewheeling joyride through Seattle’s grunge heyday, Bay Area hardcore and Americana college pop rock captured with clamor and color by veteran producer Jack Shirley

Take the leadoff track “Are You Free Tonight?”, which passes off pop melodies with a nonchalant shrug, cranks up the drive knob for a dirty sounding chorus and trips into punk, complete with a 1994 Fat Mike retch. It’s a wonderfully intended mess, which all finds its footing by the time we reach closer “When She’s Next to Me.” Driven by River Van Den Berghe’s drum sequences, high school big band meets the song’s distorted crux accompanied by jangled riffs and amp feedback that add delicate and tasteful seasoning.

Throughout that trip, ’90s alt-rock provides the template into which they fold their own tastes. Freeland’s lazy delivery rubs up against thought-out centerpiece hooks, no less on “My Wagon,” while big, ugly guitar tones sit atop softly plucked arpeggios (“Cherries”) and lo-fi tropes blossom on the quasi-romantic “Rosemary’s Gone.” Even the grimy “Lily Pad” channels ringing chords reminiscent of A Flock of Seagulls’ outstanding 1980s synthpop masterpiece “I Ran (So Far Away)”. “Cruel Gun” builds from a lead lick that wouldn’t sound out of place from Billy Corgan’s instruction manual. Not much of this seems to add up on paper, but every squeal or half-pinched harmonic (“Deadbeat”) fits into their tongue-in-cheek amalgam of nostalgia. 

Nothing is too serious in Pardoner’s world; even their most graphic takes on societal problems—“wrapped you in the flag / bullet in your back” —offer cheeky takes on leaders wanting to “protect your apple pie,” capped off with a snarling “…and for what?” Freeland pokes fun at tryhard aesthetic chasers and discusses feeding dogs on beachside days in the brightly-tinged “Dreaming’s Free” while solemnly lamenting how “I’ve got so much left to lose.” Yet the yang to this yin is finding angelic bliss on “Doberman”’s straight-to-the-jugular power pop, bouncy polka punk (“Short Song”) and a dreamy psychedelic spoken word passage on “Get Inside!”that mimics Slint recording Spiderland in a far less terrifying manner.

Peace Loving People is an observational notepad for Pardoner’s stanzas on LSD, the Popeye’s menu, despondency, disorder and artistic merit. But more than that, it’s a well formulated evidence wall linking their influences and own playful signatures. Peace Loving People is an extended invite to take a chill pill and, for all their upfront lack of bother, there are certainly no throwaway moments in every goofball singalong and tinkling overlay. If everyone can agree on one thing, it’s worthwhile finding some joy amongst the worldly chaos, just like Pardoner do.

Label: Bar/None

Year: 2023

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