The Paranoyds
Photo: David Perlman / Courtesy of Big Hassle Media

The Paranoyds Take Us on a Spaceship Ride with ‘Talk Talk Talk’

The Paranoyds channel campy 1950s sci-fi with punk-inspired garage rock on their second full-length LP and first for Third Man Records, Talk Talk Talk.

Talk Talk Talk
The Paranoyds
Third Man
9 September 2022

It’s not hard to see that the Paranoyds evoke paranoia. Their name, for one, flat-out suggests it. So does the album cover on their latest release, Talk Talk Talk. Band members–Laila Hashemi, Lexi Funston, Staz Lindes, and David Ruiz–are shown wearing aluminum foil hats as if to defer extraterrestrials from reading their minds. Anxiety and campy 1950s science fiction themes also seep into their music, covering topics like the future and other alien life forms. Set to driving rhythms, scuzzy garage rock riffs, and a decidedly punk sound, the group concentrates these themes into impressive results. Like an old sci-fi radio program, Talk Talk Talk is an entertaining spaceship ride all the way through. 

Los Angeles’ Paranoyds have been releasing music together since 2017, starting with a couple of self-released EPs before working with Suicide Squeeze Records in 2019 for their full-length debut, Carnage Bargain. While their early work felt (and was) siphoned straight from the city’s DIY scene, their pandemic-year-release, “Pet Cemetery” from a two-song 7″, the band gradually began exploring more novel themes. The move, if not more evident on their latest release, gives the group overall cohesion. This maturity, in addition to piquant songwriting–that never bores–and slick audio production, makes Talk Talk Talk the group’s most substantial, most concentrated effort to date. 

The album opens with a rattling tambourine, followed by a tame funk groove of bass and drums. Then screeching feedback from the guitar is punctuated by a reverberated 808 cowbell. The track titled “BWP” conveys a cheesy mid-century vision of the future with beeps from a spacecraft. A quirky guitar riff settles while a vocal line above makes its descent. The Paranoyds have two singers in guitarist Funston and bassist Lindes, whose lifelong friendship is openly cited to be the group’s base from which they operate. Through their collaboration and long-standing bond, they have developed an almost singular vocal tone; it’s honestly hard to decipher who is who, especially when they harmonize. Though fitting, the old radio-like effect on the vocals further complicates this. In any case, “BWP” is a catchy number with a fuzzy guitar-led chorus that bops; it’s a great introduction to an album and a great introduction to the Paranoyds.

Next is the single “Lizzie”, accompanied by a music video in which the Paranoyds are seen donning the same shiny headgear from the cover. The song is a jam; however, it doesn’t serve the Paranoyds justice. Sure, the track has all their typical moves: distorted power chords, rhythmic hits, and group-shout responses, and they reflect the pivotal girl-punk band Bikini Kill in doing so. But the song doesn’t feel as infectious or anthemic as others on the album. Take “Nissan Overdrive”, for instance. The chorus is forever catching: “My heart is heavy, and my head feels light.” Funston and Lindes harmonize perfectly in front of a sluggish slacker rock riff with skip-step indentations. The guitar-centric song makes a strong case for being one of the best songs on the album. 

In addition to the themes of paranoia (“you say I’m freaking you out”) and science fiction (“he rode a spaceship so that she could be an actress), the Paranoyds aim their attention towards society on “Single Origin Experience”. Lyrics like “Nihilism bobbleheads, misogynists but working on it”, “American means shaking hands and stealing land”, and “consumerism is facial recognition” make pointed societal critiques, and not just about the present or the past: “The future is not so clean, fantasy has been our undoing 5G reality.” Then they look back on that future with “cross off 60 more, this future was a bore”.   

For the most part, the Paranoyds’ sound channels riot grrl bands and 1980s post-punk. At times, the Paranoyds lean into 1990s alternative rock, like with “Andrew” and “Over and Done”. The former is a straight-ahead rocker, while the former is a swaying waltz with guitar and vocals. “6th Street Bridge” moves with quick steps and carries a bit of melancholy in the aching vocal melody and pessimistic proclamation, “I don’t listen to music anymore.” Elsewhere, the Paranoyds predict the state of their home base on “LA 2032” while track closer “Sunburn” is a slow, scuzzy romp with lethargic vocals. The Paranoyds shine during the lush harmonies of their two singers. As they mention in their bio, the two share an inseparable bond, and their music underscores this harmonious collaboration. 

The Paranoyds have a history of digging up old songs and re-releasing them. In fact, most of the songs on their debut, Carnage Bargain, are songs taken from the archive. “Freak Out”, before appearing on Talk Talk Talk, was originally on their 2016 self-released EP, After You, then a year later on the Eat Their Own EP. The song might as well be the band’s anthem. Although reusing songs may signify a lack of inspiration, the double dipping–sometimes triple dipping–doesn’t hurt them. The songs usually stay in tack, in their original form, but the audio quality usually is a vast improvement. If anything, it helps the Paranoyds live up to the potential they show on earlier, much scratchier recordings. Plus, the songs never stand out as being odd from the bunch; they tend to feel like the group wrote them along with the new batch of songs, which tells of the Paranoyds’ centrality and poise.

RATING 9 / 10