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The Hiss – The Panic Movement  
By Sam Beebe

Something about this is predictable.  But that very something is what makes it good.  Despite projecting a hologram of dirty garage indie via amateurish cover art complete with snakes, skulls and eyeballs, this band actually materializes as a well-groomed animal of power pop on their debut album.  And while rock n’ roll is infested with wannabes, there are a few acts out there that toe the line between all-too-familiar and familiar-just-how-you-want-it-with-a-little-something-extra, and this is one of them.  Within some recognizable contemporary formula learned from bands like Oasis (who they shared a producer and consequently toured with), The Black Crowes, or one of the economy versions like, say, Jet, the Hiss is able to leave it medium-rare enough to invoke emotions beyond, “Wow, this would be really great music for an iPod commercial.”  
The Panic Movement launches from “Clever Kicks” and “Back on the Radio,” two hit-single-esque foot-stompers that make us non-musicians pull out our unstoppable guitars of air and wish momentarily for a little bit longer hair.  By the end of the album the Hiss are beefing up to their moniker as “Riverbed” lashes out at some “crazy woman, f***ing with my head,” and “Ghost’s Gold” plays out themes of drowning over creepy moan-chanting and gunfight melodies straight out of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.  And there’s one of those super-secret-bonus-hidden tracks (though thankfully this one’s not actually hidden or secret, but rather just a bonus that you don’t have to wait through eight minutes of silence to hear.  It’s simply an eleventh track that directly follows the tenth, hallelujah).  This unnamed phantom song warns, “city people, got a problem on your hands, city people, got blood on your hands.”  Somewhere in the middle they cut a clearing in the thick forest of guitar for the more tender fingered “Listen To Me,” that while, again, predictable, is nevertheless one of the better songs due largely to its easy-to-swallow qualities and sing-along hook. 

Back to the issue of genre.  Critically, it seems based on some research, the Hiss has been lumped in with bands like the Strokes, the White Stripes, and the aforementioned Jet, into a heap dubbed “new garage” or “the garage rock revival.”  Now I know that many genres don’t always stick to the reality roots that gave them their name (i.e. bands like Rooney or Maroon 5 being called indie rock when there is nothing independent, especially not their record deals, about them) but this is not a practice that I necessarily support.  It’s misleading to call the Hiss garage rock when the actual listening experience makes me think more of an arena than some grungy dude’s car port.  The White Stripes are pale and dirty and simple and even though they actually do play in arenas now, you can hear it in their music that they spent a lot of time imperfecting their sound in a dark and musty basement, or at least that that’s what they want people to think.  The Hiss used the same producer as Oasis.  The Panic Movement is slick.  I realize that it may very well be that the Hiss has in fact put in their fair share of time blasting out a garage in their native Gainesville, Florida, and that the White Stripes could easily be studio babies casting an image, but when it comes to making the ever-important genre call it’s the music itself that we have to look to.  And while there is a definite garage rock tributary streaming in, the heaviest influence seems to flow from bigger, badder bands that make and spend lots of money.  Garage to me should be Salvation Army music.  The Hiss is that fresher smelling Soho thrift, almost designer.  

These questions of nomenclature aside, this band’s strong hand is a full house of rock energy, pop-melody sensibility and a lead singer that, like a five o’clock shadow, is somehow smooth and rough at the same time.  Their low cards are unimaginative lyrics and the occasional doldrums of repetitiveness.  In the end I say, play it loud and forget about everything you just read.

CD Info 

The Hiss – The Panic Movement 
Label: Sanctuary
Clever Kicks
Back On The Radio
Step Aside
Not For Hire
Lord's Prayer
Listen To Me
Brass Tracks
Ghost's Gold
Untitled - (hidden track)
Listen to samples and Purchase this CD online

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