According to Hot Panda frontman Chris Connelly, the band’s third album, Go Outside, is “artful pop music, but played with a punk rock spirit.” It’s an apt description, and would be a perfect tweet-sized review. While the same could be said for their previous works, Go Outside represents considerable growth as a band for the Vancouver quartet.
Connelly screeches lines like “Don’t hate the west” with a snarky, vintage punk fury on the visceral “One In the Head, One In the Chest” over fuzzed out guitars that complete the discordant delight. “Holidays” turns the somber breakup ballad archetype on its head, juxtaposing a funeral-like horn procession (courtesy of newest member Catherine Hiltz) with Hot Panda’s signature sarcasm. “Littered Coins” is a warm, acoustic strummer in the key of Superchunk, while “Maybe Now?” and the title track fulfill the album’s pre-requisite need for buoyant pop ditties with subversive twists.
There’s a flipside to Go Outside, however, and it’s rather political. On “Future Markets”, pizzicato guitars and gloomy rhythms creep along to make a compelling rallying cry against the song’s namesake. It seethes with restrained aggression, and illustrates the sometimes contradictory nature of the album.
Although the album’s sonic expansion is a welcome progression, the frisky anger is missed during the album’s pop-leaning middle and end sections. Luckily, that spark returns on “Boats”, arriving with a timely emotive bang that marries Talking Heads swagger with the dreamy Cocteau Twins guitars, concluding a coherent yet varied album.
Essential Tracks: “One In the Head, One In the Chest”