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Cruel Guards (Standard Edition)

The Panics

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Album Review

The third album from Australian group the Panics garnered them an ARIA (an Australian equivalent to the Grammy) for best adult contemporary album for a reason. The band constantly moves through new territories, defying a simple definition or a simple parallel to another band. However, they do so while maintaining an excellent, intriguing sound. Frontman Jae Laffer gives a husky delivery that swoons just a bit here and there over the top of a layer of guitar and drums, an occasional bit of keyboard inflection, and depending on the song, a bit of classic Motown-style strings (occasionally replaced by a synth version nostalgic for the Motown sound). The album opens with perhaps the most Motown-heavy piece, handclaps and strings triumphantly announcing the group's entrance. The strings are a little less Motown and a little more Coldplay in "Ruins," and bent a little toward Asian pop in "Creaks." Still, the band itself provides a steady, strong backing, and Laffer provides almost a narrative-style delivery, throaty in its timbre, breathy even. The band tells their stories, touching on the grey areas of pop, alluding to U2 in the rhythm guitar for a moment in "Live Without." They touch on darker beach songs in "Confess," they evoke contemporary Bob Dylan recordings in "Sundowner," with an almost weary, dim delivery but a grandiose chorus movement. The album defies a clear definition other than "adult contemporary," but it's attractive, it's catchy, and it's exploratory all at once. Definitely worth a spin or two.

Biography

Formed: Perth, Australia

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

An Australian rock band that was formed while its members were still in school, the Panics released their first EP (a self-titled affair) in 2002. Two more EP releases followed before the band was invited to perform in the U.K. that same year. Signed to LittleBIGMAN Records, the Panics (Julian Douglas, keyboards, guitars, and vocals; Jae Laffer, vocals and guitar; Paul Otway, bass; Drew Wooten, guitar; and Myles Wooten, drums) recorded their debut album in Manchester and Australia. The ensuing work,...
Full bio
Cruel Guards (Standard Edition), The Panics
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