Johnny Panic & the Fever are back. Or rather, they’re kind of here for the first time, but you don’t sense that this is their first EP: Sleep the Sleep of Fever.
It’s been almost a year since we last met them just before the release of their first single, and they’ve been comfortably strolling through Liverpool’s venues since. Entering with more instrumental genres than you think can fit on a stage, it’s far from overcrowded on their new record. Want some violin that will sooth your speakers, or something that’ll get you a bit twitchy? In five songs they offer you both – sometimes at the same time – without overloading your senses.
The EP opens with a sweeping violin prelude. Interesting choice, it certainly stands out and holds you for the right amount of time. In C Sharp major, it certainly builds a sense of anticipation as well as just being a lovely sound. It’s quite clear what this is, it doesn’t really need description – don’t skip it, though.
In the moment as it finishes the record begs for the speed to appear, which is delivered by ‘Dark of Night’ – with a jittery beat, the violin still following, operatics holding it up the way through. It verges on a little Balkan.
‘Car on Fire’ brings the tempo down a little after this – the first part is quite Arcade Fire-sy, but not in a bad way. In slips in some uplifting piano, some trumpet just in the background alongside the voice which has faded out since the last track. Not the most poignant out of the five, but nice.
‘Heads Will Roll’ is certainly the darkest on the track, the most nudging towards harder rock. It jumps between hard guitar, drums and vocals – the more classical elements have stepped back here and everything is stripped right down. It’ll keep you on your toes as it spins between some smashing and some quiet.
Soon we hear some soft guitar, the operatics returning – but no drop into the clamour of instruments. Instead we have soft guitar, a steady military roll in ‘Taprobane’. A tambourine jumps in and the brass is back, and it’s all back, without the hecticness of before, and a few gentle piano notes conjure up the night time we’ve been promised. You can imagine a music video to this one – it’d have to involve running around at night time on a full moon, some floaty fabric. . . And a chase, of course (you’ll have to listen).
The EP ends with a truly uplifting track (‘Dying Breed of Men’) that really takes advantage of their assets, especially the piano and trumpet. If you see them live you’d like to leave how this leaves you feeling – plain nice.
Importantly, tonight is the night of their launch, not the night to sleep – head off to the Kazimier’s Moonlight Circus tonight starting at 8pm for jugglers, fire breathers and burlesque dancers, and of course, the band themselves.