Freddie Dickson’s got bullets on his tongue. Lyrically, his debut album ‘Panic Town’ is at times accusatory and penetrating, at times bittersweet and poignant.
The rising star landed a deal with Columbia in 2014 before cutting his ties with the label over creative differences, stating on his website that “he was becoming lost in the major label machine”. On ‘Panic Town’, he announces himself with the dark and atmospheric opening track ‘All Means Something’. Although the brooding ballad format loses its impact over the course of the album, this song introduces one of its most stunning elements: the production. John Davies, who produced, mixed and mastered the album, commands you to pay attention to detail. ‘All Means Something’ fits together like a beautiful puzzle, and you are invited to study its composition.
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Similarly, there’s something ghostly about the self-referential backing vocals of ‘Hideout’, the Panic Town’s second track. As Dickson sings: “when the night falls / and you don’t have to think about your thoughts / all they do is echo round four walls”, an eerie echo sounds off in the background that could almost be the memory of drunken friends chanting together. In this way, the isolationism of the lyrics is masterfully reinforced.
As you progress through the album, you come to appreciate the steady rhythm of tracks like ‘Hideout’. Dickson’s biggest weakness is an over-reliance on ballads such as ‘Drag Down’, ‘Martim Moniz’ and ‘Manic in You’, which seem to fuse into one after a while. Although they may be decent standalone songs, they all use what appears to be Dickson’s main crutch: slowing down mid-song to a semi-acoustic break. When it first appears in the 1960s-esque ‘Feel Like You Should’, one of the album’s strongest tracks, it’s cleverly positioned and intimate. However, the more it reoccurs, the less imaginative it feels. Likewise, the deceleration feels purposeful when used in ‘Fuel’, which is without a doubt the album’s standout song.
Fuel is a true single, and the burst of energy the album requires at the midway point. Announcing itself fiercely from the first second, it is a memorable, powerful and classic indie-rock track, yet it fees fresh when sung by Dickson. Its only disappointment is the lack of energy at the end. At only 3:16, there was a missed opportunity for a racket of an ending that was unfulfilled, but it doesn’t harm the song in any substantial way.
The title track ‘Panic Town’ also shows off Dickson’s versatility just as your interest is beginning to wane. Although another example of the at-this-point-sinful tempo change, the verses are well worth the repetitiveness of the slowed-down chorus. ‘She Wants You’ is a poignant acoustic track which also showcases Dickson’s somewhat underused storytelling qualities, mainly seen elsewhere on ‘Manic in You’, as well as his sweeter falsetto range.
Overall, this highly-anticipated effort is well worth the wait. Despite its dependency on tempo changes which become veritably grating by the end, ‘Panic Town’ is a fully-realised, well-executed work, featuring tracks that will definitely stay with you.
‘Panic Town’ is out on the 7th April via Shakey Records.