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Vengeance and the Panther Queen: EP Review

Cramming in the pyrotechnic axe-wizardry of metal, the chundering drums of dance, and the infantile personal politics of punk. Vengeance and the Panther Queen sometimes get it right.

Without even mentioning their music, how you react to Vengeance and the Panther Queen will have a great deal to do with your tolerance for enforced artschool uber-irony and the kind of absurdist anarcho-wacky posturing that was probably just as fetch-me-my-revolver irritating when the original Dadaists were doing it in 1920s Montmartre cafes as it is now.

The drama group twattery of an EP entitled We Who Feel Our Lobes of Penitence Groped By Things With Petrol Claws is about as edgy and avant garde as a white-gloved mime artist doing trapped-in-the-glass-box in your face whilst you try to pay for groceries. And about as welcome.

The band hail from Dublin, a city which, thanks to the misguided Mother Records project of the late eighties, already endured a plague of guitar bands with a similar eagerness to display the crackling intensity of their leftbrain randomness through the medium of the Wacky Bandname (An Emotional Fish or Ghost of an American Airman, anyone?). With a blustering promise to 'fight the forces which drag rock and roll down to safe and reliable grounds' using 'solos sharp 'n' fast as a ninja wielding a machete and hulking stoner riffs threatening terrifying brute force', it is a pity that the actual music is not wholly convincing.

the medium of the Wacky Bandname

It's competent, certainly. Dual lead guitar solos remind of Thin Lizzy (appropriate, considering who they're supporting in a few days), but just a little too much. Bored, laconic backing chants convey the atonal angst of Belly or Sonic Youth, but again, the effect is contrived. It's all too postured, too studied.

Tara McCormack's angular aggressive vocals are doubtless backed up with a commanding stage-presence. There are almost certainly ripped tights and smudged kohl eyes involved, but the conviction needed to carry off a line such as 'I like to party, but I also like to fight' or 'never gonna work a nine-to-five' ( a cover of Millions of Dead Cops' 'I Hate Work') is utterly absent.

Punk, if it is to be anything other than an embarrassing relic, needs to be written and performed from a sense of absolute honesty and commitment. Without that, it becomes cringeworthy, touristic, Kim Wilde singing 'Kids of America'.

The concept, neatly put in the press release, is : 'even if you've heard it all before, you haven't heard it all at once'. And nor is it a bad concept. But for a band who embrace irony so tightly, the biggest irony is that the quest for an unrestricted free-form plundering of all that is great about rock, punk and dance music becomes restrictive in itself.

the pyrotechnic axe-wizardry of metal, the chundering drums of dance, and the infantile personal politics of punk

Cramming in the pyrotechnic axe-wizardry of metal, the chundering drums of dance, and the infantile personal politics of punk leave little room in the songs for anything of the band's own sound to develop. Yes, the mishmash is their USP, but it's not always compelling.

The clever-clever, roleplaying aspect of the concept is its core failing, along with a vocalist who seems to have spent more time working up a riot grrl persona than actually looking over the clunky GCSE rebel lyrics she's singing: 'what are these codes of conduct that we almost learn and, what are these laws that we almost observe?'

Harsh? Perhaps too much so. 'This is not a dignified way to make a living' has a bouncy momentum to it which, with so many elements interrupting the flow (drone backing vocals, guitar solos, a disjointed chorus) should really fall apart. 'My Ebola' also mashes a number of discrete elements and tempo shifts, chucking in a tongue-in-cheek guitar solo to finish. But both tracks have a manic allure that is impossible to resist.

exuberant, ballsy and unapologetic

The allure is in the energy, and the positivity of sticking to a musical approach that has its flaws, certainly, but which is nevertheless exuberant, ballsy and unapologetic. What the band need is some serious stage-time; the crucible intensity of a few suspicious, jaded audiences to galvanise the band dynamic and put some properly-earned aggressive attitude into those lead vocals.

If Vengeance and the Panther Queen acquit themselves with honours on May 17th at Whelan's in Dublin, (playing support to a Lynnot-less Thin Lizzy and a Slash-less Guns 'n' Roses) that will put the necessary swagger in their step. It could be a long time before they play a tougher gig, and it could be exactly the thing to turn a good act into a great one.

We Who Feel Our Lobes of Penitence Groped By Things With Petrol Claws is out on May 28th

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