Belfast alt-rockers New Pagans deliver new Indie-pop EP with a punch. As I put electronic pen to paper for this one, International Women’s Day has just wrapped up for another year. It is apt timing for this debut EP from New Pagans – fronted by a strong female presence in Lyndsey McDougall.
Coming off a nomination last year for Best Live Act in the Northern Ireland Music Prize, their tunes do not remotely sound like they’re from Irish shores. Formed in 2016 by guitarist & vocalist Cahir O’Doherty, New Pagans made their first live appearance at the Belfast Empire in early 2017. Since then, they have drip-fed various single releases such as ‘I Could Die’ / ‘Lily Yeats’ and ‘It’s Darker’. This, their first EP, packages up their previous releases, including the recently dropped single ‘Admire’.
The EP is curiously titled ‘Glacial Erratic’. I have to admit it, I had to look this one up. At first glance, I thought they were two abstract words thrown together for artistic ambiguity. In fact, the term refers to glacially-deposited rock differing from the size and type, native to the area in which it rests. Now you know. So what’s the band saying here? – this record is unique or at least interestingly different enough from their peers? In some ways, yes, there’s not a lot of bands coming out of Belfast with this sort of sound, however, in the wider, global music scene, plenty have gone before them and the influences are very clear.
Both the energetic opener ‘It’s Darker’ and ‘Charlie Has the Face of a Saint’ with Miskimmin’s ‘Monkey Gone to Heaven’-esque bassline have heavy shades of classic Pixies. McDougall’s voice and style also has parallels with the likes of Kim Deal from The Breeders, Courtney Love’s Hole and Juliana Hatfield. In the same vein of the early 90s alternative rock & grunge explosion, the band have been vocal in quoting Sonic Youth as their definitive inspiration and wayfinder.
The warped ‘I Could Die’, where McDougall’s voice is at its most raw and broken, gives way to the sonic notes of O’Doherty’s guitar on ‘Bloody Soil.’ The confidently gentle ‘Admire’ is the best track on the EP. Reflecting on finding the beauty in the ordinary when love matures in a relationship is something real and instantly relatable – “We don’t give up so easily / Is love as graceless as it seems / As they fall for the spark of newness / But I admire you more than then…”
The release finishes off with one of the band’s early singles – Lily Yeats, which contains some shades of Dave Grohl in the backing vocals from O’Doherty, perhaps with a little less bite. For followers of the band, there may be some disappointment that more new material didn’t find its way onto this release. Overall, ‘Glacial Erratic’ is just that – quite disjointed and shifting in parts, but also containing some really sublime & creative moments. It’s clear that this is a collection that spans a couple of years as opposed to a free-flowing piece that has been written over a shorter period.
Musically, New Pagans are a tight ensemble with bags of talent and it will be interesting to see what direction they head in next. Already showing some maturity in their writing, I am sure there will be plenty more to come from this promising Belfast band.