PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Panthers: Things Are Strange

Liam Colle

Maybe this is the album ...Trail of Dead would've made if they were studying semiotics at New York University when the towers fell.


Panthers

Things Are Strange

Label: Vice
US Release Date: 2004-09-28
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Okay, the fixation with the "post-" must stop. It's a nice sounding prefix and all, but really it amounts to nothing. Ears fasten in apathy and the brain oozes with disaffection each time it rings out like freaking church bells. Post-modern, post-9-11, post-structuralism -- and even more numbing -- post-rock, post-punk, post-hardcore. Ewwurghhhh.... Whatever happened to lampposts, the post-office, and posteriors? Not to say that the content behind said labels cannot be substantial and constructive, it's just that this prefix so inevitably detaches. Immediacy is lost and innovation is dismissed within the "post-" paradigms. Shit, can we start owning up to our histories, while at the same time, wrestle some accountability from our creative ability?

That's a heavy burden to expect some psychedelic punk band signed to Vice Recordings to carry. Although, despite the unrelenting "post-" tag that will drop alongside Panthers, this band has offered up a solid album that is entirely contemporary. Things Are Strange proposes nine songs and fifty minutes of loud, honest, visceral, and sometimes beautiful, rock. The standout tracks, such as "We Are Louder", "Thanks For the Simulacra", and "Stroke My Genius", are rousing and genuinely infectious. The rhythm section unequivocally rules the proceedings, with pounding drums (sometimes featuring two kits) that are never pendulous and bass work that reeks of danger. Maybe this is the album ...Trail of Dead would've made if they were studying semiotics at New York University when the towers fell (and if they were getting a lot more ass in the meanwhile).

Despite fantastic production that couches the vocals nicely within the drums, Panthers repeatedly trip into unpalatable histrionics thanks to some uninspired guitar work. Meandering and plodding, the heavy metal fretwork can chime more annoyingly than a ring tone from The Darkness. Bands like Dead Meadow and Comets on Fire certainly do the psych freak-out thing more successfully, but when Panthers do attack, they establish a propulsive urgency that stands alone. The atmospheric wall built on "We Are Louder" is stirring, for example. A free jazz noise collage opens the song and from there it just keeps growing, and it works, regardless of the fact that this dynamic has been done over and over again.

In lyrical content this album rivals virtuosity, as Jayson Green's wailings resound wonderfully throughout. From the inescapable uncertainties of love and sex to the insufficiencies of Lacanian theory, Panthers stalk and hunt for gritty, intelligent truths. Some of it comes off as completely pretentious and stilted, but for the most part the lyrics offer a charismatic mixture of insight, humour, and emotionality. "Theory is Famous" offers up a gem, "He won't let me scream on him, I'd say 'off the pigs!' But I'm scared of it. But give me a book and I'll read the shit out of it." Funnelling political, urban, and intellectual alienation into one menacing tirade, this is one of the more exciting moments on Things Are Strange.

An altogether versatile album, listening to Panthers is as enjoyable during sex as it on your way to work. "Thanks For the Simulacra", previously released as "Thank Me With Your Hands" on the Let's Get Serious EP, is especially enchanting. Vocalist Jayson Green finally finds his appropriate tone, as his open heart bleeds sleaze: "Let's just go back to your place and not talk about it there. I was thinking we should sleep in separate beds, but the heat's gone to my head. Let's get tired at the same time tonight." When at their best, Panthers affect an authentic world-weariness that doesn't exceed or ignore its jurisdiction.

Rock music is complicit in the "post-" impasse as much as any other area of human endeavour, and as so-called art, maybe its practitioners should submit to a realities check more often. Creating from a vacuum is a sure-fire way to suffocate. It's not that every song should be written about Darfur or French theorists, but only good can come from perceiving the issues of our humanity with wider, clearer eyes. The Brooklyn rock addicts, Panthers, offer up a nice example of this sort of honest engagement on Things Are Strange. Yeah, this world is tragically fucked, but we still just want to fuck. This is our absurdly contradictory society, and instead of glossing over or soaring above, Panthers wisely decide to revel in it.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.