Album Reviews

The Panic Channel – One

(Parlophone) UK release date: 11 September 2006

Jane’s Addiction is admittedly a hard act to follow, so perhaps it’s best not to try. However, in creating the comfortable distance necessary to remove any possibility of comparison, The Panic Channel may have unwittingly followed every footprint in the trail left behind by the myriad of modern rock bands currently pervading the music scene.

Spawned from three-quarters of Jane’s Addiction (guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins and latter-day bassist Chris Chaney) and brand new vocalist Steve Isaacs, The Panic Channel is emphatic in its desire to create an album which represents the antithesis of what a Jane’s ‘subsidiary’ is supposed to sound like. In that respect, the project is a complete success.

(ONe) is decidedly safe and anything but experimental. The anticipated Jane’s Addiction influences are largely absent, resulting in an album which is bare knuckled rock through and through. Hard-hitting Teahouse of the Spirits is catchy and energetic, guaranteeing airplay on the standard modern rock stations. Left to Lose, another solid rockout tune, is an apt continuation of this theme. Such tracks give Navarro the platform to unleash his career-defining psychedelic riffage, providing a necessary distraction from the ordinariness which characterises the remainder of the album.

The single Why Cry is melodic but pedestrian. However, given what often sells in modern rock circles, pedestrian may be the way forward. It may not be a stretch to assume that the experimental spark which gave rise to Jane’s Addiction was deliberately filtered from this endeavour. However, trading originality for palatability means that this album is replete with under-ambitious, generic fillers. Awake, Said You’d Be and Listen do not break new terrain. And when an attempt is made to stretch the band’s wingspan, it crashes and burns. Lie Next To Me, performed acapella by Isaacs, is awkward and misplaced, while mini-opera Night One (from Planchette) is conceptually incomprehensible. It is a contrived attempt at drawing a thematic conclusion to an album which purports to be groundbreaking in its creativity but fails to live up to the hype.

But it’s not all bad. After all, something worthy of attention is to be expected when musicians who are such raw talents in their own rights come together. Glimmers of promise are littered throughout in small doses. Bloody Mary, inspired by Navarro’s past drug addiction, captures a harrowing sense of eeriness which gives the album a much-needed soul transplant. It is also lyrically superior to the remainder of the album, which on the whole does not gravitate far from the stereotypical mope-grunge grumblings. Outsider, an observation on the music industry’s ability to taint one’s soul, is another brooding highlight.

The musicianship throughout the album is unquestioned. Navarro, Perkins and Chaney have always been solid, and remain so. Vocalist Steve Isaacs is streamlined in his delivery. However, his voice is unfussy to the point of being indistinct, and with the material he has been given to work with, any soul and character he may otherwise have exhibited remain sublimated. In fact, Isaacs would not sound out of place as a contestant on Navarro’s reality TV progeny Rock Star: Supernova. On the whole, (ONe) is a debut which neither offends nor impresses. Whether this is the present recipe for commercial success remains to be seen. However, it is evident that in trading his originality for mainstream celebrity, Navarro may have received the short end of the stick.

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The Panic Channel – One