The Panics – Rain on the Humming Wire Review

13/01/2012

Wireless Bollinger – Originally Published : Aug/2011

Label: Dew Process

Released: 29/07/2011

Rating: 55

Released after a brief hiatus on the back of the Triple J approved Cruel Guards (2007), Rain on the Humming Wire (2011) treads lightly on mildly symphonic, jaunty alt-pop. For the Melbourne via WA quintet, their fourth album shows a distillation of craft – striving for the quickest points of departure from resilient joy to somber reflections to respite. While the more compelling moments continue to come from a darker place, the album suffers in part from a lyrical broadness and over-simplification of song structure. Rather than forging new ground, the album falls a little too easily between folk, country and alt-rock luminaries rather than transcending them to create an inoffensive, pleasant yet bland album.

Humming Wire opens with familiar stomped drum hits under chiming bells in ‘Majesty’ – a piano driven ballad about the bleak story of Australian colonisation, Her Majesty and who wore what in the A-List. It’s an upbeat, jubilant ditty comparable to last year’s Hottest 100 winners – only with an Australian accent. Obviously, the role of critics isn’t in reducing art to an intellectual exercise – we genuinely enjoy hearing albums that surprise and excite us in their exploration and creativity (among other things) – but it’s difficult to listen to The Panics most recent effort without hearing a mediocre pastiche. Tracks like ‘Endless Road’ walk with purpose under a four-on-the-floor beat, but it seems to go nowhere. Flourishes of synth-horns, pounding piano and bongo fills adorn high-school poetry but ultimately amount to forgettable tune.

I don’t want to let go
I’ve held all the hands I need to hold
It seems all that I feel
I shared with you in this room was real.  

Likewise in ‘Creatures’, a wiry guitar line provides the point of interest and a few melodic licks, but the faux string-section and forced ‘oohs-and-ahs’ leaves the song sounding like a calculated exercise. On rare occasions, tracks like ‘Low on Your Supply’ connect on a more personal level – the vocal harmonies and organ atop a stripped back beat still eventuates into audience participation territory, but leaves the listener with something of substance. ‘Shot Down’ and ‘Not Quite a Home’ provide more toe-tapping moments, but it begs the question – why do The Panics – now into their 10th year together – need to fall back on utter musical simplicity?

Kudos to The Panics for consecutively charting higher with each release – it at least demonstrates a sense of aspiration – and attempting to break into the US and UK is a laudable goal – but sadly, the songs have suffered and …Humming Wire is an occasionally moody, slightly maudlin batch of disaffecting and derivative melancholia.

 


Dum Dum Girls – Only In Dreams Review

02/01/2012

Wireless Bollinger – Originally Published : Oct/2011

Score: 35

Hailing from California, Dum Dum Girls are one of the better known all-female quartets happily lost in the mildly hazy nostalgia for the 60s. Along with contemporaries (Vivian Girls, Frankie Rose and the Outs and Best Coast) Indie-Pop has become a Summer-y institution full of black clad girls with guitars that have fun rockin’ out. In contrast to the Dum Dum’s earlier work though, Only In Dreams is quite challenging for all the wrong reasons. Influences are worn boldly on sleeves, and front-chick Kristen ‘Dee Dee’ Gundred pines with (occasionally excessive) sincerity atop a chugging rhythm section – but the album is driven by roughly 5 drum beats. Sure, there’s clearly discernable difference in the albums relative highlights, but for over 75% of the album, the Dum Dums are content with polished harmonies over the same “Oh Mickey” beat, four chords, repeated choruses, forgettable melodies and trite lyrics.

‘Always Looking’ is a punchy album opener riding on a hand clapping, 60’s surf riff slice of pop-homage that immediately announces the newfound introduction of the recording studio to the Dum Dums. It’s shortly after the opening verse that the first problem arises – wasn’t one of the most endearing qualities of the debut album I Will Be (2008) the organically thick crackle and fuzz of the bedroom? Removal of such an intrinsic quality – particularly to music so evidently imbued by a past era – has to severely change the aspirations for Only In Dreams. Love and loss (particularly of Dee Dee’s mother) are still the central themes, but the lyrics never seem to look past the painfully obvious – coming across as broad and maybe even a little childish.
The closing verse of ‘In My Head’ is as follows -“Come home and kiss me / Tell me you miss me / Tell me it right / Tell me it right / Don’t bother asking how my day was / Everyday drags the same just because / Without you I can’t get out of my bed / I’d rather visit you in my head / In my head / In my head / In my head / In my head.
Similarly sentimental rhymes about beds and ‘you’ litter the whole album, yet fail to make Only In Dreams strikingly personal. Rather, the most exciting moments come in the dreamy (sincerely Mazzy Star indebted) slow jam ‘Coming Down’. A reverb laden guitar, swooning vocals and a stomping beat adorned with minor key melodies provide respite from the dull rhythms, and strike somewhere more poignant. While it’s the longest track at six and a half minutes, it’s also the most gripping – and it’s understandably the Dum Dum’s choice for lead single. To follow up the funeral march though, the up-tempo “woah” filled tune ‘Wasted Away’ – again using the drum beat of choice attempts to pummel the listener into submission. By this point though, the territory being explored is already very clear to the listener, and the songs (if they weren’t already) become nothing more than a well-produced background fuzz to tap toes to.

By limiting their scope and accentuating jangly guitars, the Dum Dum Girls were able to carve out their niche among contemporaries – hell, their earlier work is still well worth checking out. By making the leap to legitimate recording studio, over-emphasising vocals and releasing an album with a striking lack of creativity, there’s little positive to say about the sophomore effort. Aside from occasionally interesting flourishes, what seems to be left of Only In Dreams are aimless guitar solos and an ultimately formulaic, over-produced, bland and repetitive bunch of songs.


Debut EP

02/04/2011

Available to purchase and download soon.


Leeds via Europe

24/03/2011

the oddities of Leeds…

I’ve seen the sun remarkably rarely….in fact, I’ve seen more ice-cream trucks than more sun rays over the last 4 months…and ads for sunscreen! HA!

Learning the fine art of banter and taking the piss has led to feeling as though I’ve learnt a new language. That being said, it’s nothing in comparison to Oscar Wilde. His writing takes the piss.

I’ve been hard at work…a little. I’ve been reluctant to constantly write updates. does more webspace need to be taken up by a tumblr?  self censorship is important, as is internalising experiences rather than publicising them.

A freshly pressed EP shall be ready to purchase too if you’re at all interested…very soon.

Goodnight Leeds, Good Morning Melbourne.

PS. If there’s a picket fence at uni tomorrow on account of the strikes, I will not be a scab. Picketing sounds a little like loitering, but with more badges, signs and oppression. If there’s nothing I love more than a double espresso in the morning, it’s indiscriminately hanging around while drinking one. I have a permanent marker and books and books of unused paper (They’ll come in handy though Mum).

I’ll say