Panel Of Judges are a Melbourne institution really. Musical fashions have come and gone since Dion Nania, Alison Bolger and Paul Williams formed the band in the late 1990s, but apart from losing second guitarist Michael Nichols early on, Panel have steadfastly remained faithful to their original vision. Along the way they have toured overseas several times and released some outstanding records of scratchy, nervous guitar pop.
A personal favourite was the 7? EP Faux Park* from 2004, which featured four barnstorming tunes that had people throwing around hyperbolic comparisons to the likes of Swell Maps and The Clean. *Bad Vibrations sounds somewhat more sedate by comparison, but no less fascinating and consistent. Both Dion and Alison have mastered the art of their off-kilter vocal delivery that is both alluring and laconic, almost lazy, but never anything less than tuneful.
This new collection of songs is their most fully-realised to date – from the laid-back hazy strum of ?All This Could Be Yours? to the catchy speed pop of ?The Prince?. Panel’s bare-bones approach to instrumentation is subtly augmented by various guest musicians from Melbourne’s pop underground, but this never overshadows the melodic bass lines, ringing vintage guitar tones and Paul’s relaxed yet precise drumming.
Producer Jack Farley captures every sound with the same clarity and attention to detail he brought to the stunning debut by Beaches, a group in which Alison also plays guitar. What emerges is a picture of a band at the height of their songwriting powers, confident about the direction they have been heading in and reaping the rewards of their persistence.
With two equally talented writers contributing their wry songs of romance, lust and everyday weirdness, there is not a weak moment on Bad Vibrations. At 10 songs, it’s a fairly short album, but like all great records, it just makes you want to listen to it all over again. Perfect