PWR BTTM's Big, beautiful new album

Category:  The Arts
Tuesday, April 25th, 2017 at 9:11 PM
PWR BTTM's Big, beautiful new album by Britton Rozzelle

When you mix the destruction of gender norms with garage punk and modern rock sensibilities, you get PWR BTTM. Add glitter for effect.

I fell in love with this band, made up of Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins, two students from the Bard’s College in New York, within the past year after accidentally hearing “I Wanna Boi” at a party I shouldn’t have gone to. Thankfully, it was the best part of the night. Since then, I’ve been paying great attention to the band’s pastel-colored antics and '90s-chic music videos, and it’s been a blast.

“Pageant,” the latest album from the duo is nothing but a blast. It’s, from start to finish, a relatable torrent of pop-culture references, queer empowerment, cultural statements and shredding guitars, and that's exactly what we need right now. 

Kicking off with “Silly,” a breakneck anthem for the rebel that lives within all, and wrapped in a neat sense of childlike energy and wonderment (and a brass section), the album then dives headfirst into the endlessly loop-able “Answer my text.” Thematically, both pull heavily from modern romance — the stopping and starting of it and everything in between — something I think many will understand, regardless of generation. They both stand out as anthems for a modern age, like many songs on the album, but none moreso than “Big Beautiful Day,” a loud call to arms for people who simply want to exist as they are, without question.

“LOL,” a song I must admit has been on repeat for at least a few days for me at this point, is a slower, more thoughtful affair, that tackles growing up and simply existing as a queer youth in modern America. It evolves into a powerful tribute to individuality before leading into “Won’t,” a track that relies heavily on relatable lyricism and Hopkins’ quirky tenor vocals.

“Now Now” is a wild ride from start to finish, showcasing everything unique and strong about the band, with what feels like a callback to the New York punk scene of old, while being a particularly strong standalone track. It’s astoundingly playful, but also perfectly composed and layered, while still maintaining that punk rock auditory aesthetic, something PWR BTTM alone seems to be capitalizing on in mainstream music.

“Sissy" feels very intrinsically art rock, calling back with what’s very nearly ska-inspired rhythm that turns into a bombastic mid-'90s-punk-sounding aside on the album. Pageant” (aside from having a similar rhythm to Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello’s “Bad Things”) tackles mental health smartly and strongly.

“Oh Boy,” is a sultry and smooth ode to a lover that brilliantly captures Hopkins’ vocals and the band’s connection, blending into a strong crescendo of emotion. That all pays off in the Liv Bruce-led “New Trick,” a strong track by its own right that is only amplified by the biting snark of Bruce’s sarcastic vocals, something that is carried over into “Kids Table.”

Ending with “Wash” and “Styrofoam,” two climactic songs that dive into being oneself in the bodies we’re given, the latter is arguably the most emotional song by the band thus far that perfectly rounds out the rowdiness of the first half of the album.

Overall, “Pageant” is fun, topical and powerful. Much like any album or song, it has the meaning you give it, but these songs are so intrinsically linked to movements and moments in our lives right now that it’s hard not to see a bit of yourself in each and every one. That’s something special. Be you straight, gay, bi, lesbian, transgender, masculine, feminine or an unlisted but equally valid human being on this rock we call Earth, you are represented in this album, and PWR BTTM welcomes you to join their "Pageant." 

Standout Tracks: “Silly,” “LOL,” “Now Now”
Check out the whole album, streaming now on NPR: here

Britton Rozzelle is the executive editor for The Spectator. He can be reached at 

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