It all begins with some distortion, weird noise and drum fills. It’s the sound of raw, American rock `n’ roll, just the way our forefathers intended, and Panthers have no intention of desecrating such a revered tradition. Well…okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. It’s not like the Brooklyn combo is fucking Skynyrd. But what the Panthers do best is rock, and their latest full-length, Things Are Strange, is an almost non-stop document of the band rocking so hard, you fear for your speakers’ warranty.
At their best, the band sounds like similar-minded pillars of distortion, The Icarus Line or And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. Their marriage of melody and power on songs like “Legally Tender,” “Theory is Famous” and “Thank Me With Your Hands” is enough to make people forget about innovation and novelty and just want to pump their fists to the stoner rock grooves. There’s even a bit of sexy, swagger added this time around, making “Stroke My Genius” more than just a clever title. This music goes best with the tightest ass-hugging leather trousers. And any type of music that can couple well with that sort of fashion statement deserves some credit. Though, to my knowledge, these guys don’t actually wear leather pants.
At the Panthers’ worst, they get sidetracked into self-indulgent space rock jams that have a tendency to wear out their welcome a bit early. Though “We Are Louder” and “If You Were Once Young, Rage” have plenty to offer in the way of a four-minute rock song, they each stretch well beyond the seven-minute mark. Fortunately, there are seven other songs here that don’t lose their steam, and Things Are Strange doesn’t lose much in spite of its few shortcomings.
Though the Panthers have largely been known for their staunchly leftist political lyrics, I, for one, can’t tell what on earth singer Jason Greene is actually shouting about. Whatever the case, he sounds good doing it, whether he’s rattling off pinko propaganda or a grocery list. Greene’s voice is one of those rare cases in indie rock where a singer pulls off being both masculine and sultry. Indie rock needs a Jagger or a Plant, and Greene wouldn’t be a bad candidate, if you ask me.
The Panthers make some seriously heavy music, but it’s catchier than anything you’ll hear on Headbanger’s Ball. As the third song on Things Are Strange suggests, the Panthers are louder. They’re louder than just about everyone and proud of it.
And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – Source Tags & Codes
Icarus Line – Penance Soiree
The Stooges – Fun House
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.