Hot, inescapable energy comes charges through some early distortion and coy guitar strumming on “Other Spooky Is“ the leadoff track to Hot Panda’s 4th studio album, Bad Pop. But once Chris Connelly’s high pitched hollerings kick-in, everything just snowballs from there.
The song’s pace kicks into a completely frantic pace towards the halfway mark, and by that time, a spookier, modulated voice spelling out the title of the song is introduced. Even before this, the title made absolutely no sense. This idea really just doubled down on the nonsense. As Bad Pop went on, it seemed as though doubling down on nonsense was, in many ways, all part of the Hot Panda charm. Choosing Hot Panda as a name in the first place evokes a sort of inherent silliness.
There are certainly moments of normalcy to be appreciated on the record, though. Time-travelling Psych-Pop tunes like “Golden Arch“ are as straightforward and clean cut as they come. The sound is made for the Ed Sullivan show as teens bop their heads back and forth like a newton’s cradle made of skulls. And “On Your Own” provides easily the most tender moment Bad Pop has to offer.
It’s certainly more fun when they decide to embrace their weirdness, though. The perfect example of this being “Linda Ronstadt“, a track built on the quirky concept of paying homage to the legendary singer. The quirk also gets a big boost from the charmingly chirpy backing vocals from bassist Catherine Hiltz, whose voice clashes with Connelly’s in a way that makes for a captivating listen.
In an Occam’s razor type of inevitability, however, the true standout here is of course “Bad Pop“, the album’s titular track. Not only do their sugar rushed odd ballerey stand out, the lyrics are funny enough to cause some unexpected laughter on a crowded train. An act that still leads to stares from people, even though it should be completely normalized at this point. Regardless, it’s really great hearing Connelly’s maudlin self-awareness that this cheery sounding ditty could easily be used to sling sneakers in a year’s time. I think that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy? I don’t fucking know, I failed psych class.
As Hot Panda powered through their 10 song LP, they displayed a hodgepodge of different ideas. The heavy, fun Power-Pop somehow blends seamlessly with their more psychedelic and jammy moments. It’s all squeezed under their umbrella of strange in Totoro fashion, who wasn’t exactly a panda, but they can’t be too far separated in the animal kingdom.