I wanted to like Passion Pit, I really did. Their particular brand of electro-dance-pop is appealing on a very basic, instinctive level. Their EP, Chunk of Change, and their album, Manners, are very tight and certainly well polished. The band’s sound has a certain quality to it that can only be described, somewhat inexplicably, as ‘shiny’. Unfortunately, on stage in front of me, this shine became dull and faded, leaving behind… well, nothing, as it turns out.
Despite an energetic, good tempered crowd, the band was continually disappointing. Perhaps it was the cringing way all three synth players danced and head banged. Or that up close, singer Michael Angelakos’ falsetto is piercing to the point of painful. Maybe it was the way the band stumbled haphazardly from song to song.
These things didn’t help, but they weren’t the heart of the problem. The problem wasn’t even something directly in front of me, it was something glaringly absent: substance.
Gigs are great opportunities to pick up on all the layers and subtleties of a band’s music. During Passion Pit, it became immediately obvious this was not going to happen. I am mystified as to how Angelakos is able to sing so powerfully, yet so unintelligibly. I had difficulty telling the songs apart, let alone figuring out what was being sung. The set was packed with melody and rhythm, but only of the most superficial kind; if there was anything going on underneath the surface, Passion Pit have a remarkable talent for concealing it. The set opener Eyes as Candles was certainly rousing but by the nth recital of “Na na na na na na, hey! Hey!” I had completely lost interest. Catchy choruses are all very well, but without anything worthwhile in between they become tiresome and repetitive.
The slightly calmer Let Your Love Grow Tall provided a welcome change in pace. This allowed Angelakos to actually harmonise pleasingly for the first time of the night and started me wondering if I was going to be won over after all. Unfortunately it was soon back to business as usual. The victim this time was the band’s first single, Sleepyhead; bent and beaten out of shape by too much vigour and too little technical attention. The remaining songs Smile Upon You, Moth’s Wings and The Reeling were all given a similar treatment, ending the night fittingly on a consistent, annoying, low.
There was one man more worthy of your attention at the very same gig — Ben Jacobs, more commonly known as Max Tundra. Max Tundra has been producing interesting and stimulating music for over ten years. He is by no means a natural showman, as he demonstrated with an unconventional, indifferently-received performance, but his music is always engaging and, unlike that of Passion Pit’s, actually stands up to and improves with examination.
As I left, shaking my head and nursing my ears, two questions went through my mind. Firstly, what had I seen in Passion Pit to begin with? Secondly, how had so many devoted fans managed to stick through and even enjoy the gig? The simple fact of the matter is that Passion Pit served up forty-five minutes of chorus driven pop music made exceptional only by its complete lack of depth. Passion Pit load their songs with cheap thrills, designed to maximise their initial impact.
Justice, MGMT, Cut Copy, LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip — these are just a few of the bands Passion Pit are poorly imitating. Frankly, you’re much better off sticking to the originals.