Fuelled by 1970s punk and cult horror movies, Southern California garage punk quartet The Paranoyds take on the male-dominated music scene with their debut long-play Carnage Bargain; a raucous blend of dead-pan observations on modern culture and wild, left-of-centre musical influences, because “what isn’t there to be paranoid about?”
The band – consisting of Staz Lindes on bass, Lexi Funston on guitar, Laila Hashemi on keyboards, and David Ruiz on drums – released their debut After You in 2016, followed by 2017’s Eat Their Own EP; establishing themselves as purveyors of do-it-yourself, self-dependent punk rock. With their debut album, The Paranoyds have brought back a few re-recorded classics from those aforementioned releases, like ‘Ratboy’, ‘Heather Doubtfire’, and ‘Bear’, but have also brought along a whole bunch of different for their Carnage Bargain.
The opening hits you in the face with The Paranoyds’ battle cry, a piercing two-note guitar intro of alternating half-tones, leading to ‘Face First’. The opening track draws influence from the 1978 horror flick ‘Invasion Of The Body Snatchers’ and John Carpenter’s 1988 sci-fi dystopia ‘They Live’, but instead of humanity being duplicated by extraterrestrial lifeforms, predatory behaviour results from growing obsession enabled by technology: “It’s easy now / I’ve been watching you for some time.”
Attacking consumerism with title track ‘Carnage Bargain’, The Paranoyds layer Lindes’ throbbing basslines, Funston’s scuzzy guitar riffs, the punchy drum assault of Ruiz, and the aberrant keys of Hashemi over scathing lyrical observations, delivered in a rambling vocal style reminiscent of Courtney Barnett. “The grass isn’t green / It’s muddy with gasoline / There’s filth in the swimming pool / They’ve thrown away all the tools.”
Speaking of Barnett, ‘Courtney’ is another snarky stream of consciousness, further showcasing The Paranoyds’ overlapping vocal abilities – particularly from Lindes and Funston. Whereas thrashing lead single, ‘Girlfriend Degree’ rejects the status quo with catchy surf-rock pop that empowers! “I’m not a shadow of myself / Looking good for somebody else.”
Carnage Bargain continues to fishtail with genre-mashing tracks like ‘Egg Salad’, ‘Hungry Sam’, and ‘Laundry’; each one getting progressively weirder than the last. This can be attributed to Hashemi’s spooky key tones, which exude the campiness of 60s cult horror soundtracks. Indeed, Hashemi’s solo on the resurrected ‘After You’ EP track, ‘Rat Boy’, is the perfect way to close this psych-punk fever-dream.
Just like their Los Angeles forerunners, X, The Paranoyds are often off-kilter in their delivery, and all the better for it. So, close your curtains, turn off the lights, and put needle to wax… Carnage Bargain is raw paranoid punk that you won’t be able to escape from. Be afraid. Be very afraid!
Carnage Bargain is out now via Suicide Squeeze Records.