The Panoply Academy – Everything Here was Built to Break

The Panoply Academy
Everything Here was Built to Break

Perhaps one of the most challenging bands to like, the Panoply Academy was also one of the most rewarding. Look past the constant name changes – the band was known as the Panoply Academy Glee Club, the Panoply Academy Corps of Engineers, and the Panoply Academy Legionnaires – and the unique vocal stylings of Darin Glenn, and you still have the band’s disparate yet oddly intriguing mix of styles, from post-punk and post-hardcore to experimental and noise rock. This Indiana band embraced its uniqueness, however, never apologizing for being difficult, and thus rewarding fans with powerful and compelling music from every release.

Presented here in reverse chronological order (from latest to earliest recordings), Everything Here offers the perfect mix for completists and yet also a good introduction to this band. Every song released on hard-to-find 7” format, compilation album, and even unreleased is presented here, giving a backwards look at this band’s development that feels like delicious deconstruction of a post-punk band that was willing to experiment from the very beginning. Noisy, rocking, fun, and always intriguing, these 15 tracks don’t really have a clunker in them, so new listeners can become absorbed and track down another band’s back catalogue.

The opening “Nom de Plume” is one of the band’s most enjoyable pure post-punk numbers. With high-pitched singing that reminds me of another difficult band, Shudder to Think, the Panoply Academy kicks things off with a DC-style blast of post-punk from one of its last recording sessions in 2001. Another brilliant track, “Diurnally Yours,” is a fast-paced blast of intricate percussion, guitar blasts, and even trumpet flourishes. The other side of the 7” that featured that track is another powerful, moody number, “Nocturnally Yours,” which shows the band’s darker and more experimental nature.

The band provides Paper Chase-like piano controlled cacophony on “Please Stray/Look Us in the Eyes,” a dirge based on traditional lyrics of “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag,” and blasts of off-kilter yet hooky rock on “What We Deserve.” The band plays with an extremely unique take on the mix of “Dreamer/Crime of the Century.” More akin to likely inspiration Shudder to Think, “Camp Keep the Quiet” is a challenging burst of experimentation and sounds.

“The Acquisition” is a more rock-based album, putting the focus back on the band’s scrawling yet edgy guitars, while “Lingo” shows the band, in its early days, as a more energetic and all-out post-punk (and sort of post-everything) band. Those early days of energetic blasts of post-punk energy are especially evident on the in-your-face “Remedial Symmetry” and the mix of spoken and sung (or maybe howled?) lyrics on the extremely intriguing “The Administration.”

The Panoply Academy never was one of the more famous bands on Secretly Canadian and likely never sold out even the larger clubs, but the band was one of those the die-hard fans could savor and feel special for appreciating it. I saw the band play a basement – probably a normal show for this bunch – and the musicians passed out noisemakers from an old-fashioned suitcase. The people used those instead of applause, and even this unique twist on a live show seemed fitting for a band hard to understand but easy to enjoy.