The old cliche about The Velvet Underground was that few people bought their records, but everyone who did formed a band. Something similar is probably true of Tokyo-based experimental punks PanicSmile, whose early fans included indie-rockers Number Girl and quirky J-pop singer Shiina Ringo. PanicSmile’s enduring influence, constantly evolving sound and avoidance of traditional rock forms draw comparisons with U.K. post-punk band Wire. Like Wire, PanicSmile’s albums have consistently pushed in simultaneously poppier and more experimental directions, with the defiant claim of this album’s “Pop Song (We Can Write)” set against the pounding, storm trooper march of “Fighting- Business-Disintegration.” Throughout, the pop elements are kept well in check, as evidenced by the way the Group Sounds bounce of closing track “Goodbye” descends into chaos and noise.
Ultimately, “Best Education” works because of the band’s respect for pop forms (albeit frequently mangled), and the fact that — as with Jason Shalton’s redneck wails on the avant-garde, jazz-influenced “Rabid Dog Bite” — their most extreme moments are tempered by a sense of humor.
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