There is a lot to like about Canadian quartet Hot Panda’s third album Go Outside, but they try to do so much that it all descends into a noisy, angular haze of references and styles. While never offensively bad, there seems to be something so gratuitously disjointed about Go Outside, so keen to exist in a messy smash of lo-fi styles, that it fails to progress very far.
The gleeful, bouncing glockenspiel-heavy “Maybe Now?” is a sweet and joyous mid-point of the album. It cruises neatly into a surf-pop sound that appears so wholly natural it makes you wish Hot Panda riffed on Pixies more often. Even this, though, is let down by occasionally clumsy phrasing that interrupts what would otherwise be a pretty ideal pop track. Directly after “Maybe Now?” is the lolloping and waltz-like “Holidays”, and the two combine to make a satisfying and varied middle. The horns on “Holidays”, like the glockenspiel of the previous track, lift it out of the slightly repetitive aesthetic of the rest of the album and provide a much-needed change of tone and pace. Another treat is penultimate song, “See You All Around”, which is playful, spiky and tunefully energetic, and a track where the patchy and disordered approach to music-making actually works.
One of the principal problems is that almost every track feels derivative: a smattering of Television at the beginning, a little bit of Pixies towards the middle, and fun comes in the form of Devo and Vampire Weekend later on. It’s all fun enough, and there are some delicious touches, not least the rolling bass and infectious drums of “Future Markets”, but the overall effect of the album is fairly flimsy. It’s highly likely that the haphazard stylings of Hot Panda will appeal to many, but they could also benefit from a more unified style, and fewer close influences.