The irresistible psychotic homage to the Ramones from The Panic Beats was one of the highlights of last year with their thoroughly enjoyable self titled debut album. Returning with not one but two releases in the space of a month, the band not only continues their impossible to refuse onslaught of one to three chord punk urgency and horror film borne malice, but have grown into an even more compulsive and blood soaked pleasure. The elements which arguably did not quite come off on the first album have been addressed and the sound has evolved to a tighter hungrier assault to make their vindictive company more welcome than ever. You still have to be a fan of the Ramones to truly enjoy the releases as the songs have taken mere steps away if any at all from their prime influence but this is what makes The Panic Beats so magnetic.
The solo project of Michigan musician Dale Van Thomme, The Panic Beats rampages through twenty five blood lusting tracks across the two albums Strike Again and Without Warning. Every song is an energetic, frenetic, and psychotic outburst and confrontation of pure punk rock with its heart firmly entrenched in the late seventies. Van Thomme continues to unleash his off kilter discord soaked vocals and waspish melodies but as the songs play there is a new twist in store without any major change in direction, leading to even more satisfaction. How long he can carry on producing what is a sound which carries obvious similarity to its driven creativity to the previously mentioned band without losing effect and appeal time will tell but that was the thought at the end of his first album and we now have two more which are even more impressive and pleasing, and as mentioned there are new things stirring. The music and intent behind the releases is honest, no attempt to fool itself it is groundbreaking or strikingly unique but given the choice of listening to what we originally called his musical interpretation of the Ramones though an aural freakshow mirror or some fartsy prog rock epic there is no contest and Van Thomme the devil in control.
The first album Strike Again immediately lets you know the terrain has not changed for the hateful venom to ensue, just some of the weaponry. The cover, as across all the albums, instantly lets you know the ride will be vindictive, violent and messy, the horror film themes and Italian giallo imagery as strong as the New York quartet soaked sound. The storm that is Red Alert opens up the riot, a rampaging thrust of chopping riffs, ear bashing beats, and punk harmonies to fall in league with within seconds. The bass has more snarl than before to add a gnarly presence and the song itself is a tight caustic gem to start things off.
The scurrying brawling intensity of Rats, the gun slinging in the face stomp They Call Him Django, and the predatory Black Gloved Killer, continue and raise the fun, all impossibly infectious and inciteful to voice and limbs. The first album was a little hit and miss at times though never to any real detriment admittedly, but here and on the third album the consistency is impressively high, going part of the way as to explain why these are a definite move forward for The Panic Beats.
Songs like the excellent Dirt Nap with its surging guitars and merciless intent, the equally contagious Phantasm, and Stranger In The Dark, the perfect anthem for any night time stalker antics, just rile up the senses to a more agitated greed for more. Closing on the outstanding drum driven mayhem of Night Of The Bloody Apes, Strike Again leaves only pleasure and breathlessness behind, it is over before you know it with every second something to savour and unleash primal punk energies to.
Without Warning is more of the same yet a little different. One sort of assumes, because of the closeness of release times, as mentioned a month apart, that the songs and recording was done at the same time relatively, yet in hindsight after listening to all three together there is an obvious evolution or shift taking place, though never far from the core sound. Strike Again is like a bridge, the obvious follow on from the debut and lead into the more melodic soaked Without Warning. If these latter two releases are borne from the same time then the track placing has been spot on without doubt.
Opening on the garage punk like instrumental They Call Me Death with Van Thomme expanding his sound into a fuller punk fire of sound, the album again leaves one in a tempest of brutal and combative punk rock. The following Killing Spree hits with pure feistiness and combative sound whilst Bash His Brains begins opening up new avenues for the sound. It is still that rampant ear crushing riot but brings a wicked barbed melodic hook in which springs from End Of The Century era Ramones but more so from bands like Buzzcocks and The Vibrators. It is refreshing, wholly magnetic and offers the promise of further inventive sparks within the future sound ahead from Van Thomme. The song is arguably the best of all across the three albums and has one joining in at the top of the voice, with returning worried frowns from those in ear shot.
Ready To Explode continues this breath, the addictive surge within rounded and sizzling upon the ear whilst Watch Me When I Kill captivates not only from is burning sonic riot and tribal beats but the great female vocals delivered with the same style and drone lilted delivery of Van Thomme. It is another brilliant treat to show the artist is growing and exploring his sound without losing what makes him already so enjoyable to rampage along to.
The Johnny Thunders spiced Junkyard Dog with excellent guitar work sparking its skies and Dead Meat with definite Sex Pistols spawn riffs, push the creativity further whilst the likes of I Gotta Kill, The Mutilator, and the great closing onslaught of Zombie Hell just show that vintage punk rock is still alive and kicking ass.
If old school punk and the Ramones light your emotional molotov cocktail than Strike Again and Without Warning not forgetting the debut, are essential listening. The Panic Beats do not come to bring new unheard sounds or to save the world, but to offer the best enjoyable and exciting soundtrack as the world destructs and burns around you.
The albums are available on vinyl or as name your price downloads from http://thepanicbeats.bandcamp.com/ …still here?
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