retch Panic Glitter and Gore

Stretch Panic Romp Through Spooky Subjects on ‘Glitter and Gore’

Stretch Panic’s Glitter and Gore is a delightful romp through all manner of spooky subjects. Vampires, witches, and zombies get their time in the spotlight, and it’s set to upbeat, catchy rock.

Glitter and Gore
Stretch Panic
19 February 2021

Stretch Panic‘s debut album is a mostly delightful romp through all manner of spooky subjects. Vampires, witches, and zombies each get their time in the spotlight, and it’s all set to upbeat, catchy rock. The trio is clearly having a great time and not taking themselves too seriously, and the only time Glitter and Gore drags is when they do.

Stretch Panic‘s rhythm section is the heart of the band. Bassist Jennifer Monsees holds down the groove while often giving the songs their melodic core. Drummer Cassie Baker has a loose, expressive style that’s very engaging to the listener. Monsees contributions are apparent right from the start, as the wordless “Opening Theme” is almost entirely bass-driven. While lead vocalist MJ Haha chugs along on simple guitar chords and noodles on synths, Monsees keeps adding melodic flourishes to the basic chord progression.

She keeps it up as the second track, “Vampire Love”, begins. This song is a story about a woman dating a vampire and being completely oblivious about it until she catches him covered in blood. Monsees sets the melody in the bass introduction, and Haha doubles it when she comes in singing. Baker’s pounding snare on the chorus gives it propulsion as the trio harmonizes, “Your vampire love / Is sucking me dry.” The chorus has a big hook, and the band leans on it just enough, and the track is over just before it hits the 2:30 mark.

Their brevity is one of Stretch Panic’s great strengths. These songs are mostly short and fun, with simple musical ideas that don’t stick around long enough to wear out their welcome. “I Can’t Help It (I’m a Zombie Now)” begins with a simple 1980s video game style synth melody and opens up to include a chorus of kazoos and a singsongy refrain that repeats, “I can’t help it / I can’t help.” The song continues with sparkling synths and half-spoken verses where Haha runs through a litany of issues with her condition, a condition that could easily be mistaken for infatuation if not for the title. “Surf Song” is exactly that; a surf-rock style instrumental that gets in and out in just under two and a half minutes. Monsees slightly fuzzed-out bass holds down the melody while Haha strums guitar chords until letting loose with a mid-song solo while Baker gets to play a sweet high tom solo herself.

Stretch Panic are also fond of instrumental intros. The bouncy, sweet “Ouiji Boy” (Not Ouija, that’s trademarked by Hasbro) is told from the perspective of a female ghost smitten by a boy using the titular board to contact the spirit world. But the 80-second “Ouiji Boy Intro” is a separate track using all sorts of creaky percussion and high-register bass to set the ghostly mood, even though the actual song doesn’t have that mood at all. It’s similar to “Burn the Witch” and its “Intro”. The intro is creepy and full of wobbly synths and whispers of “witch!” It’s clearly influenced by Goblin’s evocative score for the 1970s witch-based horror movie Suspiria. The main song, meanwhile, is a muscular, hard-rocking track with the album’s heaviest guitars. Haha sings from the perspective of a woman accused of being a witch who is about to be burned at the stake.

It’s only near the end of Glitter and Gore when Stretch Panic, um, stretches out. Two of the album’s final three songs are over the six-minute mark, with mixed results. “Symphony of the Night”, like the band’s name itself, refers to a classic video game, in this case, a landmark entry in the Castlevania series. And like those games, the song is about a vampire. The song’s opening minute is a pretty guitar and vocal intro, with Haha singing about deciding to join her vampire boyfriend in immortality. Is this a direct follow-up to “Vampire Love”? It’s unclear. After this introduction, though, the song immediately loses all momentum in favor of atmosphere. Slow bass notes, sporadic twinkling synths, and non-rhythmic percussion effects are the order of the day. Haha’s singing is stretched out to the point where it’s difficult to understand the lyrics. There is a brief uptempo section in the middle of this, and the final minute-plus of the song gets moving again, but the overall impression the song leaves is draggy and boring.

“Surf Song” splits things up, and then “At the Ball” finishes out the album. This one starts slowly as well, with a cooing vocal intro that leads into an early 1960s rock and roll ballad feel, with Haha singing about a boy she likes and hoping for an invite to the ball. From there, the song gradually picks up momentum as she gets her wish and even gets chosen to be Queen of the Ball. But then, Carrie-style, “The blood runs down on me.” At this point, the song goes into a full synth-rock jam as Haha sings about how much she enjoys the “buckets of blood”. Between the two songs, “At the Ball” is more enjoyable because it feels like it’s heading somewhere, both musically and narratively. “Symphony” feels more like an indulgence than a successful song. Overall, though, “Symphony” is Glitter and Gore’s only obvious misstep.

Otherwise Glitter and Gore announces its intention to be spooky and silly with “Vampire Love” and then proceeds to do that very successfully. The songs are mostly simple and catchy, and while these lyrics may have underlying emotional resonance, outwardly, they’re just a lot of fun. Haha is a solid singer, and Monsees and Baker provide excellent backing vocals, and all three women are strong musicians. The focus on horror tropes may limit Stretch Panic’s general audience appeal, but the people who are on their wavelength are probably going to love them intensely.