Review by Tim Sendra
The feeling you take away from Hot Panda's debut album Volcano...Bloody Volcano after a few spins is that the Edmonton quartet really love pop music. There are so many different kinds of rock and pop folded into their sound that you know they spent a whole bunch of time listening and studying records as they grew up. At different times throughout the album you can hear the upbeat tempos of new wave, the tough snarl of garage rock, the jittery atmosphere of post-punk (Talking Heads, in particular), the sunny jangle of indie pop, and the fractured songcraft of iconoclastic U.S. indie rock. Luckily for the listener (and the band) they manage to craft something out of all their influences that doesn't sound too in thrall to any one style or sound. It helps that the album fairly springs out of the speakers and into your lap like a friendly puppy dog, it also helps that the songs are short and jammed with catchy melodies. The only (possible) problem with the record is the vocals of Chris Connelly. He's from the leaving-it-all-out-there school of vocalizing, he doesn't so much sing the songs as he acts, squirms, and shouts his way through them. Sometimes it works quite well, like on the Fall-like "Gold Star Swimmer," or any song where the spiky sound of the band matches his voice. Sometimes it falls a little flat and goes a little too far, like on the overly dramatic "Sexual Frustration." Next time out a little moderation could help things out a fair bit but for now, it's pretty easy to overlook the few moments that grate and enjoy the record. There's more than enough joyful racket and solid tunes in the Hot Panda sound to keep you coming back for repeated listens.