‘Carnage Bargain’ is the debut record from The Paranoyds, an LA quartet, featuring bassist/vocalist Staz Lindes; Laila Hashemi on keys/vocals; sticksman David Ruiz; and someone simply referred to as Lexi in the press blurb. They’re described as being an “inspiring, independent, and unflappable musical force”…hmmm… don’t you just love overzealous PR ramblings? They might very well be unflappable in their intent, independent and inspirational for certain listeners, but, musically, songs on ‘Carnage Bargain’ prove to be something of a mixed bag.
Despite a promising start in ‘Face First’, with its catchy discordant-concordant duality, sleaze-punk underpinnings, followed by a title track that evokes the spirit of Blondie’s punkier moments, track three undermines all that. ‘Girlfriend Degree’, with its central motif repeated from beginning to end, has been shamelessly lifted from The Kinks’ ‘All Day and All of the Night’. Verging on plagiarism this one, rather than pastiche. ‘Egg Salad’ impresses again, with its tempo variance, from slower paced sleaze to faster paced, punked-up passages. And ‘Bear’ conveys a neat stoner punk dynamic… albeit lapses into some sort of tribute to The Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’ during the chorus.
The remaining songs have both highlights and lowlights but, to be brutally honest, my attention started to wane midway through the album. Why? The vocals. More on that in a moment. Instrumentation-wise, songs anachronistically adhere to various stylistic traits from decades gone by. This is very much a genre-based album with a late-60s primitive garage rock predominance, coloured with New Wave strokes and punk-lite splashes. Generally, apart from a sporadicity of rip-off moments, the music’s actually pretty decent. General guitar sounds, for both rhythm and lead, reside somewhere between grunge and fuzz (should that be funge or gruzz, perhaps?). And the drums are good enough in a raw, rough-and-ready kind of way.
But, the vocals. Tracks with a semi-spoken word delivery are where the album’s at its vocal best - hints of Debbie Harry, for sure, and almost like an American Wendy James (particularly on 'Courtney'… some nice vocal harmonies in this one, too). However, some of the sung delivery sounds a tad apathetic and all too lacking in passion. It could be interpreted in the sense that apathy is kind of part of each song's very aesthetic. The singing might be lacking in fervency, but it's a lethargic-drenched delivery that kind of works with its own sense of conviction and "fuck you" attitude. But, and it’s a big but, it becomes difficult to engage on an emotional level with singing that is so steeped in apathy, as the album progresses, hence my waning attention a few songs in. An all too often dreary delivery might very well be part of The Paranoyds’ sonic aesthetic, but that can also work against it if you're not in the mood for such. If it had more conviction, then it certainly would’ve had the potential to invoke a certain mood within me. Alas not; there's an emotional distance here. How can you engage with something when too many of the vocals sound disengaging in the first place?
All in all, there’s a certain, undeniable charm to The Paranoyds' debut, through its unpretentious, DIY vibes, although it remains a patchy and inconsistent offering. It ultimately suffers from familiarity through genre mimicry (and some blatant aping), but without necessarily bringing anything new to the table. And a few too many vocally impassive tracks. A decent enough bit of gruzzy funge, though, if you can forgive the vocal apathy.
Review by Mark Holmes
13th Sept 2019
1) Face First
2) Carnage Bargain
3) Girlfriend Degree
4) Egg Salad
6) Hungry Sam
9) Heather Doubtfire
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"A decent enough bit of gruzzy funge... if you can forgive the vocal apathy."