Step-Panther’s debut self-titled album was a mixed bag that pegged them as a band still finding their feet and throwing paint to see what might stick. Three years on, they’ve evolved from a short attention span garage-rock band with too many ideas to a ‘90s alternative rock-flavoured trio with plenty of good ideas and the ability to shape and execute them.
Frontman Stephen Bourke has honed his songwriting and learnt what to leave out of a song. His lyrics, singing and guitar playing all benefit here from an economical approach. From the Weller-esque ringing chords in ‘Candy In The Sky’ to the Tony Iommi metallic riffing on ‘User Friendly’, there’s a central figure to nearly every song that gives it a definable sound. That’s not to say they’ve lost their sense of fun and musical adventure. Songs still take sharp turns without indicating but the changes feel right and fit perfectly.
Taken as a whole Strange But Nice is Step-Panther taking you on a guided tour of their (or at least Bourke’s) world of music where a sci-fi Weezer collides with The Bats and Sonic Youth remixes The Clean (‘Something Must Be Done’). At its best the album contains absolute gems like ‘Parallel’, possibly the finest song they’ve written with its cascading guitar riff and bittersweet melancholic chorus or ‘Zombie Summer’s’ back half that circles repeatedly on itself. A couple of songs pull the album’s batting average down but overall Step-Panther have taken a great leap forward on their second full-length.
this review was first published in The Music (Sept ’14)