When you grow up in a small town but catch glimpses of what could be from your bedroom window, what does an angsty kid do about it? Some buy a guitar and amp, put their list of small-town and big-world issues to paper, and write songs. Then they find some like-minded guys and gals to spread their message of disenchantment from town to town. That was the case of Fort Wayne’s F---ing Panthers. This four-piece began their musical journey fresh out of high school and wrote punk and metal-infused songs about small-town life and the daily grind.
The guys built a following and put out Learning To Die in 2011, then Two Ways of Life in 2014. When it came time to write and record their newest album, Standards of Living, singer and guitarist Billy Rivers wanted to take his time writing fresh songs. With everyone growing older, getting married, and getting jobs, it felt like this might be the last hurrah for the band. But a year-long wait on a studio to move the mixing and mastering process along left the guys deflated and ready to call it quits. The band did eventually receive their new album, but not as they’d envisioned. Regardless of whether it holds up to Rivers’ ideal final product, Standards of Living is the most diverse record F---ing Panthers have released.
“Rick Moranis-Morissette” opens the album like a bull in a china shop, with barroom posturing, big riffs, and a hint of regret in the vocals. It’s part Social Distortion and part Weezer’s “Sad Guy Navel-Gazing.” “Facebook Mom” has a ’90s lean to it, with a nod to Chavez and Nada Surf, which seems to be an ode to a life wasted from bad decisions and magnified by social media notoriety. “Do Nothing” cranks out some metal vibes mixed with a little Toadies for good measure. “Goth Prom” is pushed along on jagged riffs and Rivers’ screamo vocals and is a punk-rock indictment on a life wasted. “Decomposure” closes the album on a slow-churning bit of anger, another venom-laced bit of acidic rock.
Underneath all the bombast, Standards of Living feels like a goodbye to youth. If this is indeed the last we hear of the Panthers, at least they’re going out on a loud and hard rocking note.