KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
Update: The long-running trio from Washington state -- initially but mistakenly branded a Christian punk band because it was signed to a label, Tooth & amp; Nail, steeped in that -- has ditched the gloss apparent since the group's major-label debut, 1998's "Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo." "Panic," its seventh proper album, winds the clock back to the straight-ahead urgency of its earliest work.
"When we started talking about this new record, we thought about reaching back to our older days," says bassist Tom Wisniewski. "We mentioned that to some people and their eyes lit up: 'That's awesome. You should totally try that!"'
But why? "There are a lot of bands out there doing the glossed-over pop-punk thing. Everyone's so pretty now. That's really not who we are, and never who we really were."
Back to Indieland: After a middling run with A & amp;M (now controlled by Universal Music Group), MxPx split for increased freedom granted by Side One Dummy. "In the major-label world, we'd spend three months making a record, then three more mixing it, and any real emotion and energy just got squeezed out in the process. With this record, we did demos, picked our favorites, then just went into the studio and banged it out in three weeks."
Maturing: Gone is the adolescent angst of the past few MxPx sets, replaced on "Panic" by scads of social commentary. "The topics aren't so narrowly focused on girls and heartbreak," Wisniewski notes. "It's definitely a bigger picture that takes in world and life issues. With the state the world's in right now, how could it not?"
The response: "People who used to be fans and maybe gave up for a while have been coming back. We've been getting e-mail saying, 'I didn't dig your last couple of records, but a friend of mine played me this one, and I immediately went out and bought it. I'm back.' That's a great feeling."