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Album review: Static Panic tributes are not worth the bother

What is this, a tribute band?

Actually, let's start there — just what defines a "tribute band," anyway? It's, of course, usually a group that commits to playing the catalog of one specific artist, and they also do as much as they can to look like that band. But what if you're a band that just basically exists to regurgitate the work of other artists and present it as your own thing? What are you, then? If you're paying tribute but playing original music, what are you?

Well, you're Static Panic.

The St. Paul group was recently in town playing the Super Big Block Party, and they're currently pushing a new EP called "Chrome," which is filled with Prince ripoffs, Michael Jackson clones, and even ill-advised quasi-dubstep breaks. It's music that mostly sounds like it wants to be from the '80s, but it's too wrapped up in wanting to be restrained and modern at the same time. Basically, if you like the music that plays underneath the announcer's voice on Sprint commercials as he tells you about how you can get unlimited data for a low-low price, you'll dig this.

It's not bad. It's actually pretty well-done. But, as is usually the problem with things that are actually pretty good, it's not good enough to distinguish it from the things it is try-harding to be. Look, if your main game is to go and take some club drugs and wiggle your hinder all night, this will work for that, but let's not pretend this is anything remotely remarkable.

"Fluid Funky Butter Sweet" looks to out-MJ MJ, right down to the sharp exhalation of breaths by vocalist Ro Lorenzen, and the chorus is made up of a bunch of cliches about not stopping dancing and moving one's feet, just like the stuff on "Off the Wall" or "Bad," only without, y'know, the power of Michael Jackson holding it together. "Get up / come on!" a whispery voice encourages. Nah.

This has been done, and better. The group even manages to put all the elements together in an effective way. But listening to this is like choosing to listen to a Kingdom Come record instead of a Led Zeppelin album, and, yes, this writer just made reference to a long-forgotten '80s Zeppelin ripoff band in a review of a 2018 pop-disco band, and the Pulitzer will look good on the writer's hutch.

"The Crazy Thing" might be enough to make Prince's ashes come swirling out of his urn and assume human form just so he can sue them for stealing his mojo. "My head is spinnin' / from the peaches and cream" may not be a Prince lyric, but it's so close it might as well be. And then there's the full-falsetto-to-deep-voice thing that Prince basically had a lock on, but it pops up here, and the band just acts like they came up with it.

The sad thing is that the first two tracks on "Chrome" are the best ones. "Feel It" is the dubstep-sounding one, and it basically just sounds like a computer randomly constructing dance music as it goes along, whereas "Anthem of the Lost" goes for the half-speed thing that was popular around the time of Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball," only the band decided for some reason to mix the vocals incredibly poorly, so that it sounds like they're underwater. Cool?

Really, if you like any of the artists that have been mentioned in this review, just go listen to them and don't bother with this. The band knows what they're doing, but what they're doing isn't anything that others haven't done better.

Artist: Static Panic

Album: "Chrome" EP

Website: soundcloud.com/staticpanic

Personnel: Ro Lorenzen (vocals, programming, synths), Keston Wright (guitar, vocals), Eli Kapell (drums)

Click here to listen to the EP.

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