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.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party

If we must #quarantine, at least give us some post-punk. This week we are revisiting the best post-punk albums of all-time and we kick things off with Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Throbbing Gristle, and more.

Music

Alison Chesley Toils in Human and Musical Connectivity on Helen Money's 'Atomic'

Chicago-based cellist, Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) creates an utterly riveting listen from beginning to end on Atomic.

Music

That Kid's 'Crush' Is a Glittering Crossroads for E-Boy Music

That Kid's Crush stands out for its immediacy as a collection of light-hearted party music, but the project struggles with facelessness.

Books

Percival Everett's ​​​'Telephone​​​' Offers a Timely Lesson

Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, what can be controlled, and what must be accepted.

Reviews

Dream Pop's Ellis Wants to be 'Born Again'

Ellis' unhappiness serves as armor to protect her from despair on Born Again. It's better to be dejected than psychotic.

Music

Counterbalance No. 10: 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols'

The Spirit of ’77 abounds as Sex Pistols round out the Top Ten on the Big List. Counterbalance take a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. Right. Now.

Film

'Thor: Ragnarok' Destroys and Discards the Thor Mythos

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to Thor, throwing out the old, bringing in the new, and packaging the story in a colourful, gorgeously trashy aesthetic that perfectly captures the spirit of the comics.

Music

Alps 2 and Harry No Release Eclectic Single "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" (premiere)

Alps 2 and Harry NoSong's "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" is a dizzying mix of mangled 2-step rhythms and woozy tranquil electronics.

Music

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings Team for Wonderfully Sparse "Where Or When" (premiere)

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings' "Where Or When" is a wonderfully understated performance that walks the line between pop and jazz.

Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

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.