Well, it took almost six years, but Axis IV is finally here. The new full-length from Portland, Maine’s Paranoid Social Club is one of the most exciting and refreshing releases of the year. Now a four-piece, the band sounds bigger, tighter and more focused. The raw grit and energy of the first three Axis albums have been harnessed and channeled into eleven new tracks that showcase the band’s diversity, talent and unique vision.
“Count on Me” opens the record in absolute diesel fashion. It’s the heaviest song the band has ever written, and yet none of the power comes from overly distorted guitars or forced down-tuning. Tony McNaboe is a beast behind the drums on this track (and several others on the album) and it’s a shame he’s no longer playing with the group. “Cut In,” “The Fuzz,” “Flower Child” and “Party Girl” are all solid tracks that show PSC’s ability to fuse rock, funk, soul and psychedelic with Dave Gutter’s story-driven lyrics. “Suicide,” once a peppier Rustic Overtones tune, gets the Flaming Lips treatment here with a slower groove and experimental synths alongside Gutter’s new found falsetto.
Two other stand out’s are “No Fear” with a great 90’s grunge-esque riff and outer space synth line and “No Antidote” that masters the loud/quiet dynamic and builds to a soaring chorus. While the songs on Axis IV often span multiple genres, the arrangements are excellent and all of the tracks are accessible. It’s hard to pick apart such a solid album, but I would have moved their trippy cover/remix of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” later in the track listing sequence, and “Stick Up Kid” sounds like a self-titled album B-side that has a melody pretty similar to “The Cable Hookup.”
Bottom line: do you like original and creative music or shit? You can settle and give in to radio brainwash garbage or support local, independent artists that produce passionate and interesting art. Axis IV gives me hope that not all of America is dumb. Which brings me to the self-deprecating album closer “Our Band Sucks.” Surely the song is not autobiographical, but the lyrics seem to suggest that if you’re not successful in a mainstream sense, that your time is just not worth it and you’ll end up regretting the wasted effort later. Tongue in cheek? For an indie band from Maine who has had an up and down decade, maybe. If a band makes a record and no one hears it, does it make a sound? I just hope Paranoid Social Club don’t believe their own song because they certainly do not suck and Axis IV feels more like a rebirth than a swan song.