In hardcore's early Ã¢â¬Ë80s halcyon days, the EP became the coin of the realm: a handful of songs, often over before you had a chance to sit down. Many great bands never even recorded full-lengths - a phenomenon that's a lot less common today though by no means extinct. Maybe if Panic hadn't broken up in 2002, they would have recorded an LP by now, but on the other hand there's something endearing about a band in no hurry to put one out.
In 2006, Panic lives and has released a new EP, entitled Circles. Panic makes the kind of noise often described by lazy reviewers as lacking frills and maybe being "no bullshit." What usually follows is a comparison to some great band now tokenized as an easy point of comparison, Negative Approach being the perennial favorite. While this description holds some truth, it leaves out the whole story. Panic has proven to be more than just another old-school styled hardcore band, and they impress that fact on you with Circles. They have a nervous urgency akin to their early '80s godfathers, but also a unique ferocity that clearly marks them as contemporary. On Circles they do nothing if not complicate the way we see them.
The cover of Circles displays a view of a pack of wolves from a stand of trees, with one of the lupines turned to face you, eyes glowing. An ominous image and a suggestive one: the new songs sound less frantic; more driving and assured. Guitar hooks play a larger role than before, and Gibby's vocals occasionally fall into melodies that recall The Trouble. That dark, nervy edge remains and in some ways grows more pronounced: a more mid-paced tempo relaxes the band's stranglehold on the songs, letting their anxiety shine through. The result is a different kind of hardcore, one with a steady, stygian pulse. It imposes itself on you but convinces rather than bludgeons, more Napoleon than Mussolini.
The EP ends with a recording exhorting the listener to "point yourself in the direction of your dreams, find your strength in the sound, and make your transition." Good advice, and consistent with the lyrics on Circles, many of which concern themselves with that great topical wellspring of hardcore, self-reliance, and individual authenticity. The disembodied voices that close the record also suggest Panic's own trajectory, which is proving to be increasingly interesting and defiantly individual. The ironic part is that what I'd really like to hear from them now is a full-length.
7.8 / 10
Posted June 8, 2004, 11:22 a.m.
Engine Down recently signed to Lookout! Records. Could this be the reason why Cam decided to leave Denali, thus resulting in the bands break-up? We think so.
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