Review: The Paranoyds – Carnage Bargain
National Music Reviews
Suicide Squeeze Records
The Paranoyds = Moon Zappa + X + The Julie Ruin
The Paranoyds play that cool, dangerous, lazy malaise that hangs in Southern California like sticky-thick pollution. You don’t exactly notice it, but it’s been in the atmosphere for a long time—generations have consumed it. It’s in the ether: the existential rockabilly of X, the sun-scorched devil blues of The Doors, the short-lived nihilism of The Germs and, of course, the nonchalant valley girl, surf-punk of The Go-Go’s. The Paranoyds haven’t earned any of this, yet—but listening to their debut album, Carnage Bargain, they surely understand it. The Paranoyds don’t play around. They have elements of pop, punk, horror, grunge and straight-up rock n’ roll aggression. It may not happen on the first run-through of the record, as it took me a couple of listens to understand its multi-layered carnival of souls. It’s scary, sloppy, complicated, smart, glib and badass to the core. It spun me around and took me for a ride. Listening to Carnage Bargain is like riding a tilt-o-whirl attached to a roller-coaster train.
The Paranoyds are made up of Staz Lindes (bass/vocals), Lexi Funston (guitars/vocals), Laila Hashemi (keyboards, vocals) and David Ruiz (drums, vocals). Lindes and Funston trade vocals back and forth like a punk rock conversation. They are so similar in their “I-don’t-give-a-fuck” vocal delivery that they overlap and blend together, adding an extra weight to all these songs. The whole band attacks the title track “Carnage Bargain.” “Barbed wire on the fence / Does it make any sense / Why would I want to keep cool shit away from me.” Lindes and Funston give a calculated assault on consumerism in a superficial town: “The grass isn’t green / It’s muddy with gasoline / There’s filth in the swimming pool / They’ve thrown away all the tools.” Funston and Lindes light up the track “Girlfriend Degree,” exuding that it’s their world and they own it. “I’m not a shadow of myself / Looking good for somebody else.” Funston and Lindes demand empowerment—framed, sealed and displayed.
The album fishtails all over the place with songs titled “Ratboy,” “Face First,” “Laundry” and “Egg Salad.” The track “Courtney” coincidentally flows into stream of consciousness a la Courtney Barnett, with a free flow including the refrain, “Courtney’s got cash and she don’t care.” The Paranoyds may not be singing about Barnett, but either way, the track is brilliant, snarky and fun. “Drifting in the valley / Discovering this new band.” The Paranoyds are creatures of their own environment, and they know it well. I’ve used the word “sloppy” in this review, and at times, they use that to their advantage—however, this record packs plenty of precision. “Bear” is one such song; it’s perfect in my opinion. It’s about staying in your room and checking out for a bit. “I wanna be a bear / So I can hibernate.” Funston cuts this song up with surf-like runs that drift into a riff that sounds like an air raid siren. It’s a straight-up killer track that murders the back end of the record.
Each of these DIY songs on Carnage Bargain bites like a shark. When there is blood in the water, look out! The Paranoyds recently opened for Tacocat at Kilby Court in June. I can’t wait to have them back. —Russ Holsten