tue 16/07/2024

CD: Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

CD: Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

Noah Lennox's latest album is meaty, beaty, big and bouncy

Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper – our money's on the bear

Some have suggested that the title of Panda Bear’s fifth studio album means this could be the last we hear of Noah Lennox’s musical alter ego. If he is going, he’s certainly not doing it quietly, as this follow up to 2011’s Tomboy takes the intense sophistication of that album, hits delete and replaces it with day-glo drumbreaks and crayon-coloured consonance that dazzle and amaze like a disco ball shooting rainbows.

On top of that, the album is peppered with vocal flourishes that are straight from rock ‘n’ roll’s diner heyday. This is most noticeable on the irresistible “Butcher Baker Candlestick Maker” where the comparisons to Brian Wilson are on a much surer footing than ever before. It's altogether simpler than his previous work, but never simplistic – that would never do. Lyrical concerns throw dark shade across Lennox’s colourful canvas, most notably in the lyrics of “Tropic of Cancer” ("You can't come back, you won't come back"), and “Come to Your Senses”, which features the repeated vocal refrain “Are you mad?” Moments like these combine to create a familiar sense of unease, but one that feels foreboding, borne out of anxiety rather than the grief of 2004’s Young Prayer.

Despite the shadow cast, one suspects, by middle age and adult responsibilities, this record is still reaching for the sun – there’s a wide-eyed enthusiasm and playfulness about almost every song. Even in the canticle chorus of “Boys Latin” the melodies are sing-songy rather than sacred, and then there’s the upbeat dancefloor delirium of “Principe Real”, which sounds like Peaking Lights might if they bothered to put the recording equipment in the same room as the band. Meanwhile, the single “Mr Noah” could be the soundtrack to the best episode of Yo Gabba Gabba! you’re ever likely to see – perfect pop in psychedelic fancy dress.

Perhaps Lennox has clothed his concerns in this way to reclaim a sense of childish inconsequence. Perhaps not. What he has done is to refine and hone his sound and produce one of the finest albums you’ll hear all year.


Overleaf: Watch the video for "Mr Noah"

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters