Where’s the Beef?
Panic Channel is too straightforward; Starlight Mints too sweet; and Monsieur Gainsbourg just doesn’t translate
The Panic Channel
But if there aren’t many surprises to be had on ON e, there aren’t many sour notes, either. The songs—from the unapologetically Foo Fighterish opening track “Teahouse of the Spirits” to the sweetly harmonized a capella closer “Lie Next to Me”—are better crafted than the amateurish tripe conceived by drivelhead status-quo rockers like Nickelback or Hoobastank nowadays. The production is crisp, free of nu-metal cliché; Isaacs belts without over-emoting; the melodies are lightly sweetened, so as not to cloy.
Regrettably, guitar star Navarro politely sticks to the role of dutiful sideman throughout most of the album, though he does add needed color with his trademark churning, hyperactive rhythms and the occasional frenetic lead. Would that the fellows in Panic Channel had just a hint of Farrell’s venturesome instincts, sans the ego and the overweening freakishness, then the Panic Channel’s first release might have been ONe to remember.
In 2000 the Starlight Mints released The Dream That Stuff Was Made Of , a rough-around-the-edges debut carrying the promise of future talent and an undeniable charm on its own. The follow-up record, Built on Squares , drew more attention with a polish and sophistication to the playful music the band was constructing.
Drowaton comes now as the balance between the two previous records. The band has stripped away some of the gloss and beefed up the sounds and hooks. The arrangements have always been inventive, enlisting strings, horns, and a myriad of electronic keyboards to the core lineup of your standard rock band. The disc’s sound as a whole is bright and enthusiastic, an emotion filled with optimism washing over whatever situation may be the focus of the moment.
The Starlight Mints’ particular talent is finding a groove that makes it almost impossible to stay still. The chunky guitar sounds and the driving bass sit on the rock-steady drums, all coming together as unstoppable as a train, but why would you want to stop it any way?
For all those kids who wanted cake for both breakfast and dinner, grab a knife and fork for the musical cuisine cooked up by the Starlight Mints.
Some things just don’t travel well. Gainsbourg’s music, for instance, is intriguing in its own right: the epitome of dark, lusty lounge music that is at times poetic, at times creepy. It peaked commercially in the early ’70s, not long after Gainsbourg bagged and tagged the great beauty of the age, Brigitte Bardot, and later Jane Birkin (who contributes to a duet with Franz Ferdinand on the tribute). Known for subtle wordplay, his dirty-old-man ballads are all mirrors above the bed and “black leather zipped to the last” and “uncounted nights of sleeze,” and it’s the kind of stuff that really would be better off without the subtitles. Get a room, Gainsbourg, and leave us with our imaginations and your music as we were meant to hear it: effortlessly graceful, thoroughly erotic, and in a completely different language.
Having gotten that complaint out in the open, it is interesting to see such a varied group of artists on the same little silver disc. The chemistry of duets and trios is interesting more often than not. The ménage a trios of Feist, Gonzalez and Dani? Dancy, sexy and quirky. The one-song stand between Persson and Nathan Larson? Drama, minimalism. It’s just a shame that so few of them are bilingual.