On their earliest recordings, Hot Panda built a signature sound out of their technical ineptitude, but now that they know what they're doing with their instruments, they've let humor and a sense of adventure take the place of their former lack of ability. Hot Panda's fourth album, 2012's Go Outside, opens with the noisy and chaotic "One in the Head, One in the Chest," which recalls their early days as scrappy aural pranksters, but the clouds of sound float by with assurance and the rhythms are steady and forceful -- this is noise pop from folks who know what they're doing, and on much of the album Hot Panda seem to be having a grand time seeing how far they can stretch themselves from this opening salvo. The playful "Maybe Now?" sounds like it could be a radio hit (well, maybe if it were a bit less cryptic) with its chiming guitars and upbeat percussion, the title song suggests some sort of goof on Dirty Projectors' off-kilter layers of sound (only with a bit of added smirk), "Littered Coins" sounds almost lush with its strings and Europop synth punctuations, and the cool pulse of "Future Markets" suggests an experiment to make an EDM record without drum machines or sequencers. Go Outside is less messy than one might have expected from Hot Panda, but that hardly means they've gone slick; now they have the chops to make the most of the pop instincts they've always had, and when they bend them to the nervous new-new wave clatter of "Negative Thinking Patterns," the mutated power ballad-guitar showcase of "Boats," or the nerd-funk grooves of "See You All Around," it sounds as if Hot Panda are having as much fun writing and playing this music as folks will have listening to it -- and that's a significant good time.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming