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First Play: PWR BTTM, Pageant

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Andrea Gin

Update: PWR BTTM's label, Polyvinyl, has dropped the band after allegations of sexual assault were made against band member Ben Hopkins last week. The band's music has also been removed from iTunes and Amazon.

Do yourself a favour and click on “Answer My Text,” the second single from PWR BTTM’s new album, Pageant, right now, while you’re reading. From the first few power chords to the opening line — “I sweat out seven pounds in water weight/ just asking for your number” — it’ll give you a sense of the awkward, hilarious and immediate charm of this band.

Ben Hopkins and Liv Bruce, who make up the duo, have somehow managed to breathe new life into the flagging genre of guitar-rock with their lyrical explorations of gender-related issues and identity. The music itself is addictive, full of anthemic choruses and guitar hooks, but it is really their refreshing insight into human behaviour that draws you in.

“This record is as concerned with the morning after the party as it is with the party itself,” Bruce said in a recent interview with Rufus Wainwright that appeared in Billboard.

Pageant is PWR BTTM’s sophomore album, a followup to 2015’s well-received debut, Ugly Cherries. Both band members identify as queer, and Bruce also identifies as non-binary and transfeminine. Their stage show draws on glam-rock’s history of playing with gender norms, but they are also fully cognizant of the fact that they are making their mark as queercore artists in an ever-evolving world.

“PWR BTTM is just one queer rock band among so many. We need to have a much broader conversation to give more people a platform,” said Hopkins, in the same Billboard interview. “I love bands of straight white boys, but labels only putting out those records is very much over.”

Pageant will be out on May 12 via Polyvinyl. Pre-order the album here. PWR BTTM is currently on a North American tour, playing dates in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. See dates here.