Review: Pachyderm – “Verge”

Pachyderm’s turning out to be a tough band to pin down.

While the obtuse single the group dropped in January, the aptly titled “I’m Not Happy, I’m Just High,” was epic stuff on the order of The Sea and Cake, the Pittsburgh-based quintet also traffics in a lighter, sometimes alarmingly straight-forward brand of indie-pop, powerful stuff that puts them in the league of locals Soda Club. (Singer-songwriter Shay Park would do wonders for these guys.) So, here we have Verge, the latest LP from a group self-billed as “a few close friends making music that feels good.”

So, what of it? Does it feel good? Well, if that’s the order of the day, the band largely succeeds, sounding, at its finest, as a kind of Southwestern PA equivalent of Talking Heads. There are winners here, for sure: the bouncy pseudo funk-pop of “She Loves Me” (the closing is genius), the keys-laced and double-vocals quirk of the odd but engaging “The Waltz,” –  or, better yet, the addictive-as-nicotine “Cigarette Queen,” which sits at the intersection of Ben Folds and Sgt. Pepper. There are polished ballads (the closing “Lucy”) and poppy asides whose details, like, say, the wacky reverb and occasional guitar-soloing of “Nicky Dizzy,” lend elements of psychedelia to the proceedings.

While the band occasionally flirts with the greatness of “I’m Not Happy, I’m Just High” – as on the sometimes-aggro “Bad Night,” for takers – its members instead choose to flirt with an inviting kind of simplicity. And, yes, even though singer Ethan Mackowick occasionally croons like Richard Cheese, his deadpan elsewhere is spot on, and fits well alongside a perky bass line.

It’s not a record full of the kind of sugary gems hinted at on the verses of “I’m Not Happy, I’m Just High,” but it’s an engaging little collection of indie-pop. Jude – remember him? – would be proud. – Justin Vellucci, Punksburgh, March 27, 2018

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