Panhandler are a four-piece punk band from Stockholm, Sweden. In December they released a new album titled Wherever That Is on Trash Crusader Records (Sweden) and Whisk & Key Records (Australia). It was through the Australian label that we first heard of Panhandler. Intrigued by why this Swedish band was on an Australian label, I had little listen on Bandcamp and instantly took a liking to what I heard.
The album opens with its title track, Wherever That Is. A blast of energetic guitars and pounding drums instantly lures the listener in. It’s in a similar vein to bands such as Iron Chic and is definitely a style I love. The use of two vocalists is great – Shifty taking the first verse with a slightly rougher vocal and Frieda taking the second with a warmer, perhaps more polished vocal, before both joining together for the chorus. These vocals remind me a bit of RVIVR which is no bad thing. Wherever That Is is about knowing that someone is with you in your head and your heart, despite not knowing when you’ll actually see them again. Don’t Get Out Much is the second song of Wherever That Is. This is a fast paced and shorter tune which packs in plenty of melody. It has a sort of care-free indie punk feel at the beginning but this develops into a screamier fists-in-the-air punk rock banger. At points, the song reminds me of early Menzingers which is never a bad thing. Don’t Get Out Much is about dealing with the anxieties that come with everyday life including, but not limited to, leaving the house. A big guitar solo outro with the closing line ‘Isn’t that just what you wanted?’ finishes the song in style.
Musical styles are switched up further for the third track, Heroes. This is a rousing tune that feels almost folk or country-like. The best likeness I can think of is Dropkick Murphys, but without the inclusion of any typical folk instruments. Heroes is a heartfelt anthem for those unsung heroes in our lives. The song is a slow one for half of its duration before the pace and intensity picks up for the second half, returning to a more typical punk style. Vem Är Du Utan Pengar? (which translates as Who Are You Without Money?) is next up. Opening with crashing drums followed by fast, raspy and raw vocals, it all feels a bit angry but I mean that in the best way. It’s quite the contrast from the folk vibes of Heroes but I appreciate variety like this in an album. Vem Är Du Utan Pengar? feels like one big singalong with the chorus in particular being so cathartic – ‘So you look away to alleviate the guilt, So you don’t have to break up, A little piece of your heart.’ This song feels like the perfect release from the pressures of working your life away everyday.
Bad Daze will get your head nodding along in no time with its speedy guitar-based introduction. The mid-tempo verses where the instruments take more of a backseat allow the listener to fully take in the vocals. Panhandler seem to be quite the storytellers and this is particularly apparent on Bad Daze. The song is about having a bad day, or week, or month… but battling against giving up or giving in to negative feelings as best as humanly possible. Towards the middle of the track everything slows down and there’s a sort of interlude within the song. It’s not something you hear very often so it really grabbed my attention. As did the line ‘I just need to be a little more horizontal for a while.’ – I get you completely, Panhandler. Bitter vocals from Shifty kicks things off before anything else with Pacify Me – ‘I wanna be distracted…’. This is the first time we’ve heard the vocals take centre stage from the outset and it is something that hooked me immediately with the song. Slow verses compliment a bigger sounding chorus – ‘Pacify me, pacify me, pacify me, pacify me, Until it’s, until it’s gone.’ – and there’s a great sense of building between these, as well as contrasting instrumental sections and vocal parts. A highlight of the album for sure.
More of those huge-sounding, melodic guitars that we’ve come to expect from Panhandler lead us into the seventh song of Wherever That Is, Church. There’s an exchange of sorts between the quieter, mid-tempo vocals of the verses and fast and furious guitars parts on display here. Lyrically, the song is more than a bit self-deprecating but it is also strikingly honest. The line that really stood out to me is ‘I’ll let you down, Just like I used to.’ I’m getting more of The Menzingers-feel here or perhaps Spanish Love Songs. Parasites is the name of the next song which kicks off with some wonderfully warm guitars and a subtly fuzzy bassline. The track is about feeling frustrated and angry but trying to channel those feelings into something more worthwhile. I think the overall message is a positive one and the way in which it’s delivered is certainly effective. The upbeat chorus just might win the award for being most singalongable of the album – at least it would, if I could figure out each exact word.
The penultimate song of the album is titled Ache. It’s a slow burner that allows the listener to take a bit of a breather whilst taking in all the bitterness and emotion packed into the song. Ache feels a little alt-country in style which reminds me of punk bands like Timeshares. I initially thought it odd that Panhandler list their genre as being ‘emo country’ on Facebook but I kind of get it with songs like this. The repetition of ‘Someday you’ll ache like I ache.’ that ends the track feels like a huge emotional release for the band. It also leads us perfectly into the final song. I Want To Believe feels like an album closer, not least because with a 4 minute 18 second running time it is the longest track on the album. With a slow start featuring gentle guitar but no drums, this is another Timeshares-esque number with the alt-country vibes staying onboard from the previous song. There is perhaps also a hint of The Hold Steady, musically but not so much vocally. I Want To Believe seems to build as it progresses, the vocals increase in volume and intensity for one last jolt of energy. Towards the end I’m pretty sure there’s some brass alongside some whoa-oh-ohs. What a finale and a triumphant end to an excellent album.
You can stream and download Wherever That Is from Bandcamp (or buy it on vinyl!) and, obviously, you should also like Panhandler on Facebook.
This review was written by Emma Prew.