October 30, 2008


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The Panics, Cruel Guards
Dew Process/Fontana Records, Oct. 7

Geez, what a bummer this crew sounds like at first, on “Get Us Home,” like Chris Martin in a sombrero doing ’60s elevator music with the Moody Blues. For some, this would be a major grow-on-you epic, for others not; it’s definitely out there if you’ve never heard a slow Calexico song, but it’s so bombastically goofy, unwashed and bratty that it does work on a lot of levels. Put it this way, the Panics were discovered by British super-weirdo-band Happy Mondays, which should at least speak to the band’s potential for hammering hits out of junkyard scrap, for example this album’s “Don’t Fight It,” released as a single by super-weirdo-label Little Big Man; it’s a little bit Jim Thirlwell, Bob Dylan and Hawaii Five-O drinking-bar-scene background music all at once. Toward that, singer Jae Laffer sounds like an anger-managed Thirlwell when he isn’t working on his drool-flecked Primus drawl, and with all the piano gravitas and Cinemascope orchestration it’s as punk as punk is allowed to be, for the benefit of retired safety-pinners who need a chill if no one else. AEWS