90 Day Men Panda Park

[Southern; 2004]

Styles: indie rock, math rock, prog
Others: Shipping News, Slint, Unwound, Dianogah

Unfortunately, the TMT review of To Everybody has presented me with a stumbling block. Like their peers Liars,!!!, Helio Sequence, and The Rapture, 90 Day Men don't seem stand up to their live prowess and transcendent energy on a studio album. Unfortunately I haven't seen them live, but I've listened to The Smashing Pumpkin's Meloncoolie and the Eternal Dejection more times than I'd like to admit. So, when I hear the twinkling keys and impassioned falsetto grande of the opener "Even Time Ghost Can't Stop Wagner," I think of that self-indulgent SP record, but am tweaked enough by the grandiosity of it that I want to stick around to see how and if it deviates.

"When Your Luck Runs Out" follows with something like the Smashing Gourdmonsdottirs at their most "glammy." The more restrained vocals mixed with the earthily downtempo melodies make me think of Calla. "Chronological Disorder" is like a lost Led Zeppelin track that's been going on and on in the creamy depths of Mordor since the beginning of time, only to be released into the bog of eternal stench that is modern civilization. There seems to be no way around it, because these guys are proggin' it up to the hilt. While the new Trans Am record, Liberation, has reinstated the dominance of their given strengths, Panda Park shows more technical grandiosity and fluid grace than could ever be expected from the synth-spastic cyborg heroes.

On "Too Late or Too Dead," the vocals sound very much like Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees). Okay, I shouldn't even be reviewing this right now since I'm completely biased. This song is better than a Screaming Trees reunion could ever be. In the vein of the operatic tragicomedies of The Dead Science and Xiu Xiu, Panda Park contains something akin to TV on the Radio doing Berlin-era Bowie in "Silver and Snow." This is melodramatic prog pomp and icy math merged into an overbearingly, overwrought burlesque show. If you enjoy this sort of thing like me, please, do not hesitate to snatch this bad boy up. If you're embarrassed about liking any of the above-mentioned bands, you might want to take pause. It's definitely an intriguingly fearless foray into self-indulgent theatricality and butt-numbing crescendo. If you get a kick out of The Fucking Champs riffing on Bach with "Air on a G String," you're on the road to Panda Park.

One last thing that should be mentioned is that though these songs would probably be a lot more engaging live, I think this is true with a lot of acts out there. Put on the song "Night Birds" and turn it up so loud that you can just barely hear yourself think. It's like a dream come true and a considerably more restrained, but more importantly, a "vocal-less" version of Phish. In fact I think I just saw Trey running down the street with his head on fire. Put it to a beat Fishmann!

1. Even Time Ghost Can't Stop Wagner
2. When Your Luck Runs Out
3. Chronological Disorder
4. Sequel
5. Too Late or Too Dead
6. Silver and Snow
7. Night Birds