Your coolest and most dangerous relative is back in town. Step-Panther. With skills and claws sharpened for sophomore album Strange But Nice, and with Big Scary’s Tom Iansek straddled atop as producer, they’re poised to playfully paw at you once more with their fun, riffing garage rock.
Step-Panther give us another taste of their second album with Nowhere. What are you talking about boys? You’re going everywhere!
Emerging from the wilderness in 2011 with a four-tracker and a self-titled debut album, the Sydney trio soon garnered attention at home and abroad, with NME labelling them one of the Best New Bands of 2012. This earned them the opportunity to contribute a B-side for the legendary London label Too Pure, before releasing another EP Dreamcrusher in 2013.
For their latest effort they signed on with local label HUB and headed to Iansek’s Mixed Business studios in Melbourne. With big ups from the Big Scary peeps after touring with them a few years back, the old pals got together and tracked the album in a week.
It opens with a brief, stripped-back acoustic that repeats the titular line. Strange But Nice stems from a feedback comment one succinct little dude left at frontman Steve Bourke’s girlfriend’s art exhibition. Rodney – with a name as equally badass for a nine-year-old as his appraisal abilities – struck a chord with Bourke, who “just really liked that phrase and it popped back into my head while we were recording the album”. The opener is followed by Nowhere, where sharp percussion is soon joined by catchy, twangy guitars. The mood ebbs and flows, with changes from lo-fi shaky vocals to stripped back chorus’, to fuzzed-out pacey guitar interludes.
It Came from the Heart lends a pleasant air with slower paced percussion and a singular shiny guitar, set against the lovelorn confessions of the lyrics. User Friendly immediately ups the ante with dense fuzzy chords, before Candy in the Sky returns to the rangle jangle with a catchy pop rhythm reminiscent of some early, old-school inspired Little Red. Up and Go further displays the band’s versatility with a heavier, surfer rock vibe to the instrumentation and melody.
The lads let an underlying nerdiness slip with Namor, a shredding ode to appeasing the titular Marvel Comics antihero; a half human/half heir to the undersea kingdom of Atlantis. Something Must Be Done starts with a slow guitar intro before kicking into gear a demanding rebel song; although with minimal lyrics, the cause is never revealed. Zombie Summer is hard and fast with face melting/eating guitar work followed by an anthemic breakdown with layered vocals willing the summer to never end.
Number One Fan concludes the album as a sweet, slow, intimate tune with intertwining bass and soft guitar. The lyrics are again left to be ambiguous as to what is being desired, but one thing for certain is that there will be plenty of people vying for the title of No. 1 Step-Panther Fan after this release.
With a sound as lo-fi and slacker as ever, the tracks retain the catchy and melodic side that sets Step-Panther apart. The dudes are set to hit the road to tour Strange But Nice, and with their original bassist in the UK on sabbatical, they’ll be joined on stage by Hockey Dad’s Zach Stephenson, no doubt through the Iansek connection.
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