So garage rock is the new black. Or it could be a resurgence of angst, weed and boredom. Whatever. Sydney slacker punks, Step-Panther, look set to join the out-of-control freight trains synonymous with the music of Straight Arrows and what was the sound produced by Philadelphia Grand Jury.

Step-Panther’s debut long-player ain’t so long, despite containing 13 tracks it clocks in at less than 35 minutes. The follow-up to the self-released Surf EP was actually produced by an ex-Philly Jay, Simon Berkfinger. It turns out that both bands share in common the number of personnel (three). They also make music with big fat guitars, dirty bass lines and forceful drums that aren’t all fist-pumping frenzies because there are also moments for quite tuneful and melodic diversions amidst the cacophonous noise. But that could have something to do with Step-Panther’s influences, which include: Weezer, Cheap Trick and Wilco.

Opening track, “Never Again” sees a one-minute intro where the guitars gun it and there are some time changes before a short burst of bratty, punk lyrics bring this baby home. The problem? Apparently he sold his Gibson SG and is “Never gonna play guitar again”. Right.

The Stooges may have sung about “No Fun” first but on here the vagabonds make music like The Buzzcocks and combine this with a vocal delivery that is more like The Fall’s Mark E. Smith. There is a change of pace for “Rock & Roll Alone” where a Drums, surf-like vibe is coupled with slower 50s guitar riffs and sentiments from that bygone era.

“I Feel Weird” is some hilarious escapism about trying to get away from your inner demons for one straight kick in the teeth. But what is considerably stranger is “Young & Dumb,” 44 seconds of crazed noise before the oddball, atmospheric guitars of “Galactic Hurricane”. Elsewhere we get the howl of “Scorpions” and some indie rock on “Ferrari”.

But the song that really sums up this schizophrenic lot of spirited eccentrics has to be “Rock & Roll Alien”. Here we get a five-minute slow jam full of Sonic Youth’s layered guitar work. But lyrically it’s all about talking shit with spoken-word vocals like those by The B-52s’ Fred Schneider. The track is basically as freewheeling in nature as the group’s overall approach to music. They’re not content to pick one genre, instead they run with twelve or ten or five.

The only thing linking the 13 tracks on Step-Panther is the fact that they use guitars (sometimes jangly, at other times fuzzy and skuzzy) to make a lo-fi racket brimming with energy, spirit and the odd harmony. These guys apparently would love to be music’s answer to The Incredible Hulk. The jury’s not yet out on that one, but they should be content knowing that they’ve kicked out those jams motherf**kers for no fun in a rock and roll high-school.

Originally published on 16 November 2011 at the following website:

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