For better or for worse, 2013 has been the year of the “emo revival”. Bands that were once well-kept secrets of dirty basement collectives have been gracing the front pages of national music news websites (like the surprisingly gracious Pitchfork). Even in the small niche market of Philadelphia, we’ve seen an almost meteoric rise of artists who are quick to swear by terms like “twinkle”, “noodle”, and things that sound more like cupcake toppings than actual genres. Panucci’s Pizza’s debut full-length, Don’t Tip the Delivery Boy, gladly follows suit.
The best thing about the West Chester two-piece is that they understand that they are not new. Their formula is tried, tested, and proven to work – whether it’s yelpy Philly heartthrobs Algernon Cadwallader or loose and angry New Jersey natives Dads, their influences are calculated and obvious. Vocalist/guitarist Matt Diamond and drummer Brock Benzel rely on minimal instrumentation and an almost complete lack of “production tricks”, and they are damn good at creating a mood within those limitations.
Opening track “Holy Diver pt. 2” tears through almost four minutes of blistering emo before it settles into a laid-back groove bookended by loosely harmonized “ooh”s. Panucci’s Pizza feels the most relatable when they take the opportunity to slow down the pace – there are some genuinely reflective moments buried under the noise.
Don’t Tip the Delivery Boy suffers from many of the traits that plague other records in the scene. The nine songs are compiled from various EPs and singles that the band had previously released, and there’s definitely something left to be desired from that slightly disjointed organization. It might be a trademark of modern emo to never settle for “too clean” of a sound, but after repeated listens, the guitars beg for more bite and the snare thuds when it should crack. With a little polish, the Panucci’s Pizza boys could have had a record that sounds as gutsy as it feels.
Album closer “My Imaginary Friend is STILL Addicted to Pornography” is one of the duo’s best – if you can get past the title, you’ll find that it’s probably the most sincere that Diamond will ever sound. The ending vocal loop of “for the first time I felt safe” is so believably desperate that it almost makes us feel uncomfortable for realizing that it’s a term expressed in the past tense – whatever that safe feeling was, it’s gone now, and it sure isn’t coming back anytime soon. And it’s somewhere in that raging discomfort and anguish that Panucci’s Pizza not only makes their home, but gladly invites us in.
Must-listens: “Holy Diver pt. 2”, “My Imaginary Friend is STILL Addicted to Pornography”