The Panics Have Returned, a Vividly Cinematic Fifth Album in Tow

It’s been five years since Perth-via-Melbourne band The Panics’ last full length release. Despite such a substantial drought, there is little doubt that they have remained one of the country’s greatest contemporary alt-rock acts. Fine songwriters with such sincerity and emotional intricacy are rare to happen upon. Even more so are those who are able to stretch their creative limits while remaining intrinsically distinct in their sound and skills as The Panics do.

Matched with their signature cinematic scope is an attention to detail that sees the band craft entirely immersive albums – albums you feel in your very bones long after their final echo. Their new full length release, Hole In Your Pocket, is a reminder of their innate ability to create music that slowly but surely seeps into your soul with a vivid, atmospheric grandeur.

With the influences of Midnight Oil, The Go-Betweens and The Triffids permeating throughout, it is clear that the band has left the New York setting of previous album Rain On The Humming Wire and returned home. Recorded in Melbourne, the album has a distinctly Australian atmosphere with hints of late ’80s and early ’90s alt-rock that are flavourful without dating the record.

We kick things off with Weatherman and, as is seemingly tradition, the song feels like the opening credits to a film – and that’s before the line ‘this is the movie’s opening song’. The first single lifted from the album, it sets the scene and speed for our journey with twinkling guitars and a slightly electro-digital pulse. A multilayered track that chugs along with a certain sentimentality, it discusses climate change. Never nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake, “Don’t complain to the weatherman”, sings Jae Laffer, as if reminding us that we had been warned of the consequences that society’s environmental irresponsibility would bring.

Carparks Of Greschen continues along with the same crunchy buzz as the album journeys through Australian suburbia. Passenger is a car ride of pure reverie; Know My Name a hazy daydream; Not Apart Not Together an unsuspecting but refreshingly upbeat canter with lyrics about the push and pull of a relationship that are completely juxtaposing.

Loiter With Intent hones in on this theme of juxtaposition as it explores the spaces in which mega wealth and major poverty exist in this country – namely the places where mining magnates continue to brutalise and exploit Indigenous culture and the land. Parts of Australia where police brutality is rife and the lack of resources is crippling. Places that are perhaps forgotten or more accurately, ignored.

The Panics have always had a knack for bringing their albums to life on stage and with Hole In Your Pocket it’s as though they’ve skipped the middle step and have instead brought the live show to the studio album. There’s a decidedly live quality to the album, filled with all the reverberation and colour and intensity of a live show.  The title track is a particular testament to this quality.

Everything culminates in Switching Off, Laffer singing that perhaps that’s exactly what he’s been doing as the album wraps up after nine songs, though the album doesn’t feel short or lacking. Rather it’s a natural close, pulling together all the elements with cinematic direction. From the influences of decades past and the flourishes of the present, to the live quality of the sound and to the subtle criticism of cultural and societal ignorance.

If their third (and most successful to date) album Cruel Guards was their Western epic, Hole In Your Pocket is The Panics’ Australian Road Trip, travelling through time and the dusty terrain of the country’s mainland. Moving between Perth and Melbourne, pondering both the past and the present, there is ample time and space to think and feel and The Panics do it all.

Hole In Your Pocket is an album that, through music and poetry, looks both to the future while glancing into the rear-view mirror.

Hole In Your Pocket is out today via Dew Process

Image: Supplied