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Panic Office - 'Blue Hour' (self released) 5/5

A great pleasure of doing a radio show over an extended period of time is when you find a promising young band at the very start of their career and see them mature and develop into an act that can cut it with the very best of them. Case in point is Somerset band Panic Office. Back in early 2007, this lot were a bunch of sixth formers who had just issued 'Ghost Music' an album length demo that showed a musical maturity way beyond their tender years. That album was highly rated in our album of the year round up, and still picks up airplay on the show from time to time even now.

Now, five years on, we have the follow up record.. Now this record has been a long time in coming. I first heard demo versions of some of the songs on offer here four years ago, but with university and other such things getting in the way, recording continued at a snails pace, an odd session here, an odd session there, whenever a couple of the band could get together - with often many months between studio dates. Many lesser bands would have abandoned such a project, but Panic Office are from Somerset and like that counties better known products, fine cheese and farmhouse cider, they are made of strong stuff, and now at last Blue Hour has arrived.

Now you can tell from the off that this album is  real labour of love. The production here is spot on, there is not a note out of place and the mix is crystal clear; like a fine gem that has been cut and polished to perfection. The music is equally as impressive. Blue Hour still retains the Mars Volta influences that was the trade mark sound of Ghost Music, but we have other things added to the mix as well, there are hints of Muse and Radiohead, touches of Tangerine Dream, a dash of Pink Floyd or two even a touch of The Jesus and Mary Chain style post goth shoegaze floating around the sound.

I've been playing this album through over and over trying to select a track or two for praise and deeper analysis, and I've failed miserably. From the opening sweet riff of Through Blue To Black with its double picked guitar line to the chiming grandeur of the closing bars of Blue Hour itself this album is one long highlight. Although I will say my favorite moments on offer are the darkly paranoid Fusion, with its civil defense film voice over, the wonderful mob choir on the middle section of Song For July and Gloriously angst fueled Help, But Then Don't.

Bottom line is Panic Office have, over the past four years produced in Blue Hour a record that many a better known and better supported band would sell their grandmothers to have made. This record, should open doors and lead on to bigger and better things for them, and after putting so much time and effort into producing it, it is the very least they deserve.

In Short - Find it, buy it and love it.

For fans of... Mars Volta, Muse, Tangerine Dream, The Jesus and Mary Chain... etc

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