Here’s Panda Bear aka Noah Lennox’s first and hopefully last blunder, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper. A tired dull clutter that has failed the anticipation and flimflam surrounding this album. Ever since his nostalgia-tinged third solo record Person Pitch, Lennox has effectively cemented himself as a connoisseur of ethereal whimsy and otherworldly rhythms equal to that of his fantastical band, Animal Collective.
Whilst Panda Bear’s previous LP Tomboy had its fair share of blemishes, the album was nonetheless reinvigorated by its many soaring harmonised surges of wonder that are frankly to be expected from this century’s Brian Wilson. Grim Reaper does have its few moments of allure. The effortlessly flamboyant ‘Boy Latin’ concocts a bubbling thermophile of lysergic beats that stride with the spell of monosyllabic verses that sound like ‘Mr Sandman’ showing the first signs of a major stroke. The song ‘Tropic of Cancer’ also has a nice airy appeal that’s very reminiscent of the Brian Wilson classic ‘Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)’.
The production throughout the album is eccentric and create notably different soundscapes compared to most artists around now, but they are still incredibly thin most of the time and serve only as a sort of idiosyncratic wallpaper to surround an array of dull beats and toned down melodies. Case in point: ‘Mr Noah’, which is like a magical mystery tour through the town of Basildon. The weird, boggy production only really attempts to mask the boring landscapes and annoyingly bad yodelling vocals that are as persistent and redundant as a small boy smacking your face in with a teaspoon. It’s clear that this album is too grounded, too invested in its own forgettable pseudo-disco tunes that it forgets what made every other record sound so great.
Person Pitch was a great record because of its rich reverberating samples, soaring vocals and untethered rhythms that create an almost formless domain unburdened by the banalities of adult life. It could also rejuvenate itself on the awakening of dormant nostalgia trips that dwelled within the listener. It was as if you could hear to soft melodies of an ice-cream truck or the sound of small children playing in the sand being picked up by the stereo frequency amidst the meditative samples.
As much respect needs to be given for this record’s attempt at going in a different direction (as convoluted as it may be) it none the less failed to pick up many of the key factors that made the previous LP succeed. This might seem like the ill-framed critique of “it doesn’t sound the same as the last one, therefore BAD” and it really is annoying that this album sounds more and more simplistic, toned down and chucked full of repetitive redundancy when compared to the graceful highs of Tomboy and Person Pitch.
However, it’s the fact that this record has effectively turned into a pretty heavy statement about the seemingly dried-up pool of new ideas and creativity left within Panda Bear’s cranium that worries the most.