They’re back. Modern-day punk legends MxPx have released yet another studio full-length after being a band for well over a decade. After their last album received mixed reactions (too poppy, overproduced), MxPx signed up with an indie label (Side One Dummy) and decided to return to their roots. Well, as much as they could. We all remember when MxPx claimed to be returning to their roots the last time – the result was the largely mediocre The Renaissance EP. This time around, it’s different. It’s a nice combination of MxPx circa 1996 and modern day MxPx. Overall, it’s a much faster album than their past 2 studio full-lengths, and for the first time in years (thank God) the production is excellent. While this record is a step in the right direction for the band, it’s far from a perfect record. On every MxPx album, there are one or two songs that are just pure crap, and Panic is no exception, but more on that later. After hearing the first five tracks to Panic, something became apparent – this is the album I wished MxPx had released after Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo. The tempo, the lyrics…everything would have matched up perfectly. Instead, they released the terribly produced The Ever Passing Moment, followed by the super-sappy pop-fest that was Before Everything and After. Mind you, I enjoyed both of these albums, but they were far below what the band was capable of. Keep in mind, MxPx is the reason I listen to music today – Life in General is my favorite album of all time.
Right off the bat, you can tell that MxPx has picked up the pace from where they left off. The first three songs are quick blasts of power chord punk rock, combining Mike’s classic melodies with Yuri’s steady and reliable drumming. The first single, “Heard that Song” is an overly simple track containing no more than 4 chords total, but it’s undeniably catchy. “Cold Streets” is an aggressive track that brings back memories of MxPx when they were hard, and fast – until the song slips into the inevitable pop chorus that the band seems to have such a hard time avoiding these days. “The Story” is a standout track with heartfelt lyrics (pun intended). This song sounds way different than the other songs on the record, as a darker side of MxPx is introduced. It couldn’t come at a better time, since the first four songs tend to run together after a while. MxPx is a great band with a rich history, but there’s no denying that they’re getting old and their trademark sound wears a bit thinner and thinner with each release.
I previously mentioned how MxPx always has one or two songs on each album that are pure crap. Examples: “Party, My House, Be There,” “Next Big Thing,” “On the Outs,” etc. But on Panic, “Wrecking Hotel Rooms” takes the cake. In my opinion, this is the worst song MxPx has ever written. Lackluster vocals are only worsened by an awful vocal melody chosen to run over the same, boring, spacey guitar riff repeated over and over again. Mike goes up and down between the same notes “I’ll be there in your dreams and in this song…” over, and over, and over again. Between two notes. It’s beyond terrible. It’s embarrassing. Yet somehow, a lot of people seem to like this song. It’s the second single off the album. How that’s the case, I have no idea. Fortunately, MxPx quickly recovers with the religious-themed hillbilly-punk song “Late Again.” Taking a page from The Vandals’ book, MxPx manages to achieve this sound somewhat successfully, adding nicely to the diversity Panic possesses.
Some might remember “Grey Skies Turn Blue” as an acoustic track on the EP that came packaged with the live DVD B-Movie. This time, they’ve sped it up, replaced the keyboard part with hard-hitting moog, and turned the opening drum beat into electric drums. The first 15 seconds of this song are flat out awesome and convey the energy that Panic emits. Mike’s voice comes across as uncharacteristically whiny in this song, something that actually seems to happen more than a few times on this album. I don’t know if it’s because of how Mike’s voice is produced, or if it is Mike himself, but the result isn’t good. Where as most MxPx albums have a tendency to run together in the middle, Panic is better about that. Right when the album begins to slip into a rut once again, “Get Me Out” comes up and breaks it out.
“Get Me Out” is the best song on the record. It’s the best song MxPx has released in years. Why? Because it’s hard, loud, and in your face. Almost a hardcore song, Mike screams out “…Get me out” repeatedly as the music is similar to MxPx’s earliest days, back when they released Pokinatcha. This song reminds me of the MxPx I fell in love with, and it is straight up punk rawk. Mike also has awesome rhythms to his lyrical delivery in this song, especially in the second verse. The album fades off into the distance with two final tracks that really aren’t that great, but aren’t bad either.
Overall, Panic is a great release from a band that I have more respect for than just about anybody else out there. MxPx is my all-time favorite band and their influence on the scene has been monumental for almost 13 years now. That being said, there are major flaws to Panic, but regardless, this is a great summer album. MxPx can still write songs with super catchy melodies, and the diversity of this record prevents it from all sounding the same, something their past few releases have had a tendency to do. Panic is MxPx’s strongest record in over 5 years – I just wish it would have come out 5 years ago.