Panico – Kick

Panico - Kick

It seems as if Panico just appeared out of nowhere. They are in fact from Chile, but have lived for most of the last decade in Paris. And, while this is their 7th album, it seems that it’s their first to receive a full US/UK release, available everywhere except France on the Glasgow based Chemikal Underground label. Also, Kick was recorded in Glasgow, chosen in preference to London, Paris or even Santiago. This was  partly due to Panico’s connections with Franz Ferdinand, in whose studio the 10 songs that make up the album were recorded in the space of a week. With production handled by Gareth Jones, whose recent credits include These New Puritans and Liars, and who less recently handled the mixing board on behalf of (among others) Depeche Mode and Einsturzende Neubaten. I really feel like I should know more about Panico than I actually do, with names like Chemikal Underground and Franz Ferdinand invoking an element of nostalgia from this formerly Glasgow based Scots music critic. But it’s taken until their 7th album for Panico and I to get acquainted.

And if second albums are often difficult, what does that make a bands 7th release? It’s no less than 5 years since Kick predecessor Subliminal Kill, and with the band now approaching their 16th year together it’s possible to appreciate the artistic and personal forces that must drive Panico today. Recorded in just one week, Kick is the product of a group of experienced and talented musicians competing with the constraints of limited studio availability (they probably got it for free) and using this to provide an added impetus to their songs. This seems to pay off for the most part, although there are also a few indicators as to what an album recorded in two or more weeks might’ve sounded like.

Live in Paris for a decade and find yourself exposed to what are some relative obscurities of the often insular French music world, such as Telephone, Programme and Metal Urbain. The songs on Kick are sung in English, French and Spanish, and with nearly two decades of experience to draw upon, the range of styles Panico are capable of using – hard edged electrorock, industrial noise, pop punk, latino balladry – makes Kick resemble a greatest hits compilation more than an entirely new release. The one week limit on their studio time might’ve given Panico a bit of an adrenaline boost, but it also results in one or two moments of throwaway afterthoughts, but credit must go to Gareth Jones for holding this one together. ‘”llumination” sets the tone for what (mostly) makes up the overall sound of the album: atmospheric electronics and percussion that break into a tightly controlled amalgam of banging drums and insectoid guitars. “Bright Lights” and “Icon” continue these themes, accelerating the pace and coming on a bit garage punk respectively. “Reverberation Mambo” is perhaps the album highlight, the one track on which all the elements (and there are a considerable number of these) which Panico bring to the soundlab actually cohere fully, an electrified samba punctuated with swathes of echoing vocals and electronica. This, I suspect, is the real Panico: the production clearly references both Depeche Mode and Neubaten, and Panico are more than able to create music and sound of a similar stature. Probably the album highlight, but a very special mention must go to the sub Ramonesy stomp of “Algodon”, sung entirely in French and referencing Belgian one-hit wonder Plastique Bertrand. ‘We don’t take it too seriously’ is apparently the message right here and it’s also the track that reveals the confusion of styles that Panico’s own experience and circumstances present them with and, while the quality of the songs might remain for the most part consistent, Panico very nearly stretch themselves too far over the 2nd half of the album.

Perhaps the opening track of the second side of a 12″ or cassette release, “Waka Chiki” probably began life as a ukelele strum on some distant southern Pacific shore although it quickly speeds up into a frenetic mutoid garage track. “Guadalupe” is a heavily percussive synth-rock piece, again redolent of a Latino Depeche Mode, while “Uptown Boy” is a clear nod to Franz Ferdinand. Next track is a bit of a duffer though. Least attractive and weakest of the songs on Kick is indisputably “I Wanna Be Your Needle” which, after some of what precedes it sounds a bit lame, probably thrown together in a hurry and whose ‘heroin chic’ lyrical imagery sounds a bit rubbish, frankly. Perhaps the lyric would come across as more credible in French or Spanish: it falls very flat in English. And final track “Distant Shore” seems to belong on another album entirely. A soporific ballad that has Panico drifting into an altogether smoother, even sophisticated style which, with its phased guitar and undulating rhythm, doesn’t really resemble much of what’s gone before it, although it’s probably an indication of how Panico might want their next album to sound.

Kick more than provides a long overdue introduction to a band whose career has, for the most part, happened outwith the Anglicised rock world from which they draw much of their influence, but Panico might wish they’d taken more than a week over its recording. I haven’t, regrettably, access to any of their preceding 6 albums to make proper comparisons with. I also need to mention Ivan Navarro’s glossily Vorticist sleeve artwork, yet another example of an album cover that requires a larger format than CD provides. The confusion of influences and energies that surround Panico certainly find expression on this album; see if you can find a vinyl copy.