noble but failed effort, a frustrating record. When a band attempts something as ambitious as Brigadoon—twenty-two songs long with arrangements that fuse various genres and influences that span decades of pop songcraft—the temptation is to cheer loudly and forgive whatever flaws might appear. But however laudable P:ano’s self-professed “insatiable love of perfect pop music” might be, their labor of love has resulted in a disc that approaches perfection only in its ability to flummox the listener with a stream of good ideas followed by bad.
Hailing from the fertile Vancouver scene that has already spawned a few near-geniuses such as the New Pornographers, Destroyer, and the as-yet unheralded but brilliant Young & Sexy, the oddly named P:ano may have been trying to play catch-up by releasing such a generous record. They would’ve been better served by ditching the middling, cutesy material (“Sweet Sweets,” “Candy is Nice,” “Covered Wagons”) and saving the energy spent on those songs’ careful arrangements. The rolling piano lines, accordions, tympanis, and various percussion instruments hint at what is essentially a forced eclecticism, or at least a squandered one.
What remains are many songs that almost make it. “Storm the Gates” is a good example of Brigadoon’s vexing habit of near-success. It’s half a good song, a wintry meditation on loneliness that abandons its original template in favor of a sudden shift into vintage Stereolab-like driving beat and overamped Farfisa organ which itself ends abruptly. The retro-synthy melancholy of “The Rescuer” sounds interesting but never conjures a strong enough melody to make it stick.
At twenty-two songs, that still leaves a lot of material, and there’s a fair amount that’s good. The throbbing, almost gospel-ish “Light O’ Love” is good fun, as is the slightly off-kilter cha-cha of the delicate “Supermarket One,” one of a few songs (“The Snow” is another) that piss away their charms by ending much too soon. Thankfully, the longest tune by far is also the best. “Dark Hills” is especially inventive in its percussion, shuffling snares, ticking woodblocks, cowbells, and claps all underneath a simple, dreamy piano pattern and melody.
Throughout Brigadoon there’s some of the playful mash-up of styles found in bands like Saturday Looks Good To Me or Camera Obscura, and maybe even a bit of the Magnetic Fields pop classicism. Strangely, the band also garners many comparisons to slowcore champions Low, to whom I cannot find much similarity at all beyond the intermittent bouts of melancholy that crop up here. It’s possible those comparisons are more apt to P:ano’s two previous releases, with which I am unfamiliar. Or maybe they’ll be more prevalent on the second album the band plans on releasing this year, Ghost Pirates Without Heads.
Or maybe songwriter and co-vocalist Nick Krgovich is just too prolific for his own good, and that influence got lost somewhere along the way. Undoubtedly Brigadoon could use some pruning. It’s not necessarily unfocused, just too inclined to indulge whatever whim enters Krgovich’s head. While that may create a catalogue that expands exponentially and looks impressive on paper, it also discourages the listener from taking the time to wade through it.
P:ano would be well advised to evaluate their material a little more critically and hone their obvious gifts, instead of trying to polish every little turd they poop out. The obsessive craftsman in Krgovich might protest, but part of artistry is discipline. By all means, keep peeking under every rock, looking for that elusive, magical kingdom. Just learn to recognize when you’ve reached a dead end.
Reviewed by: Chuck Zak
Reviewed on: 2005-06-30