The Panic Division

Songs from the Glasshouse

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San Antonio emo kids the Panic Division return with their second album, Songs from the Glasshouse, a clear step beyond the basic pop-punk of their debut. Some parts of that album hinted at a new wave/synth pop influence, but Songs from the Glasshouse takes that sound and runs with it. But where most bands working from the template of MTV-era synth pop take their cues from groups like Duran Duran or Depeche Mode, the Panic Division are directly influenced by a different and much less frequently revived strain of '80s pop. Buried deep in the last third of this hour-long album is a completely sincere soundalike cover of Mr. Mister's 1985 hit "Broken Wings," one which in this context makes clear this overwrought, melodramatic song's place as one of the unacknowledged building blocks of emo. Similarly, the rest of Songs from the Glasshouse takes most of its ideas for arrangements, production, and song structure from other slabs of earnest and somewhat cheesy synth rock albums from the same period, such as Tears for Fears' Songs from the Big Chair and Simple Minds' Once Upon a Time: heavily processed guitars à la U2 mixed with prominent synth lines and booming, reverb-heavy drums. "Your Satellite" and "Stay" in particular would fit perfectly on the VH1 Classics play list without a second thought. Singer Colton Holliday commits to the sound thoroughly, sounding more like the stentorian likes of Bono or Simple Minds' Jim Kerr than the darling sons of Eddie Vedder who populate the majority of emo bands. Still, much like Vampire Weekend's blend of Paul Simon's Graceland and Haircut 100, it's hard not to hear Songs from the Glasshouse as an expression that the '80s revival is starting to run out of things to plunder.

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