Posts Tagged ‘Fierce Panda Records’

Fierce Panda Records – 20th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Just two months on from the release of ‘Tear Ourselves In Two’, Jekyll follow up with ‘Catherine Wheel’ to cement their reputation as a band with a knack for a bona fide indie pop classic.

This one is particularly relatable on a personal level. I felt as if I was living in a different world from most people during lockdown. While friends, family, and many people on social media were managing by revelling in the masses of free time they sound themselves with on their hands and blasting through books and Nexflix boxset binges and bakery galore, and articles in the media about how people were re-evaluating their lives and work/life balance during ‘the great pause’, I found my anxiety was finding new peaks not because I was scared of the virus or running out of pasta or loo roll, but because with working and home-schooling, and surrounded by the tornado of panic what was engulfing friends and colleagues, I had less than no time, less than no energy, and weeks would evaporate.

In the event, the best part of sixteen months evaporated. Nothing happened, nothing really got achieved, and everyone got older, at least those who made it. I’d been spinning, windmilling at a frantic pace just to stay still, and still am. What is there to show for it?

Lockdown – when it eventually did happen in the UK – hit hard and fast and everyone clenched. Emerging from lockdown has been long and slow, and still feel like a massive adjustment, as if rising to the surface could induce the psychological equivalent of the bends. But here we are.

Singer Joel describes ‘Catherine Wheel’ as being about ‘the disorientation and panic of feeling that your life is passing by faster than you can keep up with, before you’ve even figured out what you want from it or how to use the precious time you’ve got to its full potential.’ Because life is too short, and every day wasted is a day closer to death. Butthole Surfers nailed it with the line ‘it’s better to regret something you have done than to regret something you haven’t done’. To do nothing… well, you may as well already be dead. But being forced to do nothing – that’s hard to stomach.

‘Catherine Wheel’ is succinct but explosive, three-and-a-half minutes of pent-up energy finding its release. It starts off with a gentle acoustic guitar that conveys a wistful sort of feeling, and is vaguely reminiscent of early Mansun, then very swiftly piledrives into a soaring guitar melded to a thumping, busy drum beat – loping, rolling, urgent, a beat on every beat and bursting with energy, and there’s a lot going here, and not just deep layers of reverb. It’s got that vaguely psychedelic / goth hue of The Horrors, but Jekyll are very much their own band rather than being in thrall to anyone.

If Muse frustrate with their immense pomp, then on ‘Catherin Wheel’ Jekyll capture the positive elements without being so overblown, distilling the elements down to create something that possesses a palpable intensity and that head-squeezing claustrophobia while at the same time looking outwards to the possibilities. It’s got a dark new wave edge, but it’s a truly killer single and a song for the times.

Catherine Wheel

Fierce Panda Records – 2nd July 2021 

Blackpool’s Jekyll – like so many up-and-coming bands – have seen their momentum, largely driven by hard-gigging to build a grassroots fanbase, hit a brick wall since last March, but their first release of 2021 looks set to launch them on a huge leap forward, not least of all because it comes with the backing of cult indie label Fierce Panda.

On first listen, it seems like a palatable mid-pace indie-rock anthem, but even before the fade, it becomes apparent that there’s more to it than that.

The story goes that ‘Tear Ourselves in Two’ was initially conceived to counter-balance one of Jekyll’s earlier tracks ‘Mania’ (which comes on like the criminally underrated and much-missed The Cooper Temple Clause) and it’s hard to resist the urge to make some reference to them as a band with two sides to their musical personality, but that would be obvious and rather lame. Oops, I did it again.

As ‘The Wounds We’ve Ignored’ demonstrated, Jekyll don’t only dig Muse, but dig deep emotionally and touch some pretty uncomfortable spots, and this is no exception. The lyrically dark ‘Tear Ourselves In Two’ has hints of many other songs, all stitched seamlessly together to conjure a simultaneous sense of familiarity and familiarity and freshness – as you struggle and strive to dredge the depths of your memory to decipher what it is it reminds you of, you come to realise that ultimately it doesn’t matter. Then again, on maybe the third or fourth listen – and it’s that much of an earworm, it hits that it’s a bit Pulp meets Mansun meets The Cinematics – and that their knack for bold, string-swept audiography is immensely powerful.

‘Tear Ourselves In Two’ is, quite simply, a corking tune and one that just gets better with every play.

Fierce Panda Records – 24th February 2021

Here we are: it’s the end of February 2021, and COVID-19 isn’t still a thing, but just a few weeks short of a year after the first lockdown was announced here in the UK, it’s pretty much the only thing, and it dominates and dictates our lives in ways we could never have predicted back then – or, arguably, even in September, or at Christmas.

In a time when the music industry isn’t as much in crisis as halfway on its knees and wondering what the actual fuck to do while touring remains off-limits both home and away on account of the pandemic and Brexit meaning the future of the foundations of musicians’ livelihoods is in question, while at the same time the debate over the equity of streaming services for artists has stepped up several notches, the need for an indie label like Fierce Panda seems even more vital. They’ve never gone with the grain and have continued to carve their own niche, focusing on single and EP releases.

The Covid Version Sessions EP is a classic case in point: bringing together a selection of artists you probably haven’t heard of alongside a selection you really ought to have even if you haven’t, it showcases six standalone cover (Covid) version (boom boom) releases, recorded during the pandemic by acts striving to find ways of working together while apart or otherwise unable to operate as normal.

It’s an eclectic mix, with some interesting takes on some well-selected tunes. While we’ve already given praise to National Service’s stripped back, haunting take on The Twilight Sad’s ‘Last January’ (released this January), it’s Moon Panda’s slick, sultry jazz-tinged cover of ‘Call it Fate Call it Karma’ by The Strokes that raises the curtain on the EP. It captures the essence of the original, but somehow manages to sound more authentic, perhaps because of the lack of self-consciously ‘retro’ production.

I’ve long had a soft spot for Pulp’s This is Hardcore album, not least of all because of the admiration inspired by their apparent commercial suicide in following one of the biggest albums of the Britpop era with such a desperately dark pop record. But also, because it has so much more depth and resonance. Desperate Journalist have an ear for drama, so their covering ‘The Fear’ is pretty much faultless: again, it’s a straight rendition, but magnificently executed. The same is true of Jekyll’s rendition of Japan’s ‘Nightporter’, which captures the understated, brooding theatrics of the original.

After Johnny Cash, is there any point on covering ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails’? Ghost Suns arguably step back closer to the original with electronic instrumentation, and in fact swing more to the other side, landing in ambient / synthwave territory. It’s not as good as Cash, and nor is it a good as the original, but then, it was a hugely ambitious undertaking and yes, it stull brings a lump to the throat – because it seems no matter what spin you put on this song, it is a classic that can’t be contained or twisted to be anything other than a blow directly against the heart.

The Covid Version Sessions may not offer much cheer: in fact they’re draped with sadness and remind us of all we don’t have – but they also remind us that we’re not alone in being alone, that it’s ok not to be ok, and that sometimes, the solution is to just take some time out, listen to some haunting melodies and remember that tomorrow is another day, and that for better or worse, nothing is forever.