June Panic – Songs From Purgatory

3 out of 5

Label: Secretly Canadian

Produced by: Kramer (mastered by)

Selections from June Panic’s early, cassette-only, 4-tracked, mostly-doin’-it-all-himself self-releases, all prior to his Secretly Canadian debut in 1996. Stylistically, this very much puts the 3-ish minute cuts in the same league as that debut, Glory Hole, flipping between DIY folk and nasally-sung pop and the occasional slam of punk distortion and Panic’s howls, and the 50+ tracks also have a similar effect as that album: being way, way too much music to not start losing track of what you’re listening to. That may suggest a more sporadic listen, going one CD of the 3 at a time, or even in smaller slices than that, except Purgatory still presents a somewhat puzzling problem there: the tracks are not arranged chronologically, or even sticking to being paired with the same songs as on their original releases. On the one hand, that’s pretty school – it means the tracks were arranged; Panic has done some cleanup – alongside the mastering of Kramer, removing any noxious lo-fi artifacts from the mix – to present these songs in the best way possible. …On the other hand, I’m not sure there’s a clear benefit to that: the discs still come across, for the most part, as scattershot, with the best moments those that have been left in their original-album sequences. Disc 1 has the longest run of this, and is thus the strongest overall; Disc 3 is perhaps the most demo-y seeming, but has more experimental and stronger material than 2, which seems to favor (overall) quieter, and less varied tracks. So maybe there is something to the arrangements, but I guess I would rather have just had everything presented in order, which would’ve given things the appearance of structure.

Though, given Panic’s liner note ramblings – it’s logical, literate stuff, but rambling all the same – perhaps the lack of structure is the point.

To swing back around to something more positive, while the way this stuff is offered up is questionable, it’s notable that these were all tracks from things Panic actually released, however limited, and so they do display the artist’s penchant for endless hooks and rearrangements of jangly frenzy into something unique for each and every song. Meaning these are songs, for sure, and surprisingly layered and polished for stuff going back so far. My demo comment is more to the lack of culling when you pile it altogether – you’re rather spoiled for choice when it comes to catchy riffs and offhandedly brilliant snipes and observations concerning Panic’s then- (and frequent) obsessions with the collision of sexuality and faith.

Given the time period of the material, it’s definitely more for fans of Panic’s early work, and with the most memorable moments rather spread thin – the rest could be said to be bright, but fleeting flashes – probably only for completists who’ve been curious about that wikipedia list of cassette releases you’ll never be able to own.