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Panda Park

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Album Review

Panda Park is an undeniably brilliant record that finds an uncompromising, always striving-to-evolve band totally on top of its game. This is what Aladdin Sane might sound like, had he gone into hiding in 1974 only to re-emerge three decades later in a Chicago indie rock outfit. To Everybody may have hinted at the direction the 90 Day Men would take with Panda Park, but it still comes as a shock — the group has gone from being confounding post-hardcore to defining what could be called post-piano pop. They mash Warm Jets-era Eno, Elton John, Bowie, T. Rex, Wendy Carlos (check the analog vibe on "When Your Luck Runs Out"), ELO, and the entire history of Chicago's experimental rock into a caterwauling, spaced-out collection of catchy insanity. Is this the first hardcore pop album? It's certainly challenging and unforgiving on tracks like the piercing and awkward "Chronological Disorder" and there's a weirdness that suggests something is impending. But there's no slick, Interpol gloom and doom or '80s keyboard new wave — which would have been the easiest approach. On the contrary Panda Park is uplifting, mesmerizing, glittery, and unapologetically psychedelic while sounding rooted in both '70s prog and skewed latter-day punk rock. The 90 Day Men have landed with an album that acknowledges their forebears while owing them nothing — and they may be the most relentlessly original band of the year. Panda Park is like Revolver from a group raised on Fugazi — God help listeners when they release their Sgt. Pepper.


Formed: Chicago, IL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The 90 Day Men evolved into one of the more distinctive math rock bands of the new millennium, opening up the angular, dissonant complexity that was the genre's stock-in-trade to include elements of psychedelia, '70s prog rock, and new wave. Early on, their sound was more typical -- post-hardcore art-punk indebted to Slint and their various Louisville brethren (Rodan, June of 44, etc.) as well as D.C.'s Dischord stable. As keyboards became an increasingly important part of their core sound, however,...
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Panda Park, The 90 Day Men
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