The Hiss

Panic Movement [Loog]

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On its debut album Panic Movement, Atlanta's the Hiss crafts a snarling brand of garage rock that isn't quite as raw and urgent as, say, the Von Bondies, but isn't as polished and premeditated as the D4. Named for an avant-garde art movement, the album finds the band trying to weld some challenging lyrics and imagery to its loud, often dense music; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. "Imagine being stabbed by all your friends," sings Adrian Barrera on the paradoxically named "Triumph," and it fits the song's sense of claustrophobic menace; however, "We know what you've been eating in your fancy restaurants and we don't like it" just detracts from "Not for Hire"'s angry-young-man stance. Likewise, the Hiss also borrows from other styles of music with mixed results; as its name implies, "Riverbed" is a bluesy, Led Zep-inspired outburst that borders on metal, while "Ghost's Gold" is a plodding epic that tends to diffuse into psychedelic haze as it unfolds. Like many garage rock bands, the Hiss is most powerful in small doses, and at this point, the band's most straightforward songs work the best. "Clever Kicks" is a fierce statement of purpose, and while "Back on the Radio" and "Brass Tacks" aren't as dynamic or fully formed, they're still decent enough examples of garage rock revivalism. Not coincidentally, the breathers the band takes between Panic Movement's rockers end up being some of the album's highlights. "Hard to Lose" boasts sweet vocals and even sweeter guitars; on songs like this and "Listen to Me," the Hiss sounds like a harder-edged Oasis -- not a bad thing at all. Alternately too predictable and too quirky, Panic Movement reveals the Hiss as an ambitious band that can't always deliver on its goals. Perhaps the group's next album will have a better balance of firepower and finesse.

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