road On the again
THERE’S one thing you can rely on every time ARIA-winning band The Panics releases a record – a brilliant road song.
Perhaps, it was all those winding drives into the city from their childhood homes on the fringes of Perth but travel and distance are recurring themes for a group that has often decamped to Manchester – or in the case of their latest album, Woodstock – to get a new perspective of the place they are most familiar with.
On album Cruel Guards, we joined them on a dusty train ride through Australia in Feeling
On Get Us Home, that album’s opener, we clip-clopped on horseback through the Wild West. And, on My Best
Mistake, we jumped in the car for a cruise through the country.
If the evocative foghorn and kettle drums that punctuate
Majesty, the first single from new
album Rain on the Humming Wire, are anything to go by, The Panics’ latest journey is their grandest yet.
‘‘ It just seems my default setting is to go into these environments and subjects that are more about places I’ve grown up in or places I’m living in,’’ frontman Jae Laffer says.
‘‘ Maybe ( it’s) a simple story about a break-up or a love song and it’s nice to throw in some environmental points to reference.
‘‘ I enjoy that and there’s part of me that thinks that the place you live in is worthy of a song. If you weren’t into my band you’d go, ‘ what’s that all about?’ because it’s just me singing about a street, maybe some kids are sitting near
a fire over there and ( a guy) is in love with the girl in the car in the corner.’’
But it’s precisely these charming suburban vignettes that have endeared The Panics to so many Australians.
In 2007, they won a J Award and an ARIA for their third album, Cruel
Guards, a release which also spawned the hit Don’t Fight It. While the sepia-tinged memories of the hills and wide outback roads that characterised Cruel Guards still show up in Rain on the
Humming Wire, writing the album in Manchester and recording it in a converted church outside Woodstock, New York, put the band’s career into perspective for Laffer. ‘‘ I got thinking about my early teenage years,’’ he says.
‘‘ The nights we’d spent on the escarpment, lighting a fire, thinking about the future and looking over the city.’’
Reaching his 30s, Laffer knows he won’t be able to mine his past and dwell on themes of travel or being away from home forever.
‘‘ I honestly feel like I’ve knocked a lot of it on the head and I think that this [ album] is a nice culmination of ideas,’’ he says.