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Paranoid Social Club really are out to get you

Club-house rules
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  May 18, 2011

THEY DIDN’T START THE FIRE Paranoid Social Club return.
Hopefully by now you've heard the first single from Paranoid Social Club's new Axis IV, "Count on Me," and you don't need a whole lot of convincing that this is the record you'll be listening to all summer. With an artful combination of raw power and delicate melody, it is PSC in microcosm: On one hand fueled by preening bombast, on the other vulnerable and unsure and more than a little jittery.

That skittery snare work from Tony McNaboe (now replaced in the drum chair by Planeside's Craig Scala)? It'll put your heart off-beat and give you the sweats.

More than anything else, though, this record is impossibly fun. I'm no psychologist, but it wouldn't surprise me if paranoia and mania were intimately linked. Though not everything here is up-tempo, just about all of it is turned up to 11, drenched in the brightest of sunlight, seen only through the zoom lens.

PSC back their opening single with a cover of Sabbath's "Paranoid," a nod to the "Paranoid Social Club" band anthem from their first album, and an indication of their full investment in the aesthetic here. Long-time Dave Gutter fans will be pleased: It opens with one of his trademark, chord-shredding primal screams and proceeds into the meanest, grimiest cover of the song you're likely to hear, all of the drama and metallic opera stripped away and replaced with a dystopic detachment, voices blending into a chorus of Cylons, nuclear energy rippling off like a swarm of bees.

It'd be the perfect anthem for those fucked-over aliens in District 9, surely.

Like that flick, the special effects here — the slow-jam disco of the morbidly funny "Suicide" or the digital blur bassist Jon Roods layers onto all kinds of backing lines — are a backdoor into the human psyche. The chorus of "No Antidote" is an explosive indictment of the modern malaise that infects that swath of the public that sits around waiting (and wailing) for someone else to fix the economy, the system, whatever it is that's wrong:

"Did you think it would be that one thing that was pure?/Did you think it would be that one thing that could cure? . . . You wait for it to come and it don't, and it don't, and it don't/There's no antidote."

The digital whir lends a futurism, a look forward, a weight that shows they're not looking just for the easy hook. What will be the impact of a disinclination by the general public to put in their 10,000 hours?

Perhaps a continuing raft of pathetic stick-ups of bank branches and pharmacies, as we've seen here in Maine as the painkiller epidemic spreads. PSC take the theme explored by Natural Born Killers (and the Bay State, actually) and make it Brand New Heavies fun, Bloodhound Gang fun: "What you're looking at here are some desperate men/Who are sick of seeing people living better than them/I was even thinking of hitting the ATM/Why's it gotta cost me five to take out ten?"

If they don't play this song live this weekend, it's a crime. It's built for crowd frenzy. Good thing they brought on Trent Gay to turn this trio into a quartet. There simply has to be someone to pair this piano part to the bass progression.

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  Topics: CD Reviews , Music, Black Sabbath, Portishead,  More more >
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