If there are two kinds of people in this world, they could easily up be divided into two categories: those who love Bradley Hathaway, and those who just haven't heard of him yet. If you're hanging out in the former camp, then you know that Hathaway put his successful slam poetry career behind him with his 2007 musical endeavor The Thing That Poets Write About, The Thing That Singers Sing About. A little over a year and a half later, he returned to the music scene with A Mouth Full Of Dust. If you're one of the unlucky folks who haven't been introduced to Hathaway's music, then you may only know him by the vaguely unsettling title of his newest offering, A Thousand Angry Panthers. If this is where your journey with Bradley Hathaway begins, you could not have picked a better time. Despite its unfortunately short runtime, A Thousand Angry Panthers arguably packs in more depressingly awesome melodies and profound lyrics than any collection of songs so far this year.
The EP starts off with the cello-infused "She Was Raised By A Man With A Sickness," heavy on the lyrical content and light on the instrumentation as it tells the story of an emotionally battered young woman. Next is the contemplative "Carolina," a powerful ballad filled with spiritual commentary and an expertly placed guitar part. "Would You Think Less Of Me" hauntingly explores a life filled with feelings that push the limits of the storyteller. The EP closes with the brutal "The World Is Screaming" that begins with elevated levels of emotional tension and ends with a powerful crash of voices, instruments, and pure lamentation.
Lyrically, A Thousand Angry Panthers is brilliantly and tantalizingly dark. Bradley's songwriting ability has always been adept thanks to his success with poetry, but for this EP, he's kicked it up a notch. Musically, A Thousand Angry Panthers is the next step up from his previous record, A Mouth Full Of Dust, and the emotions run just as deep. If there are any flaw within the EP, it's that the four songs are simply not enough-- the flow of the album seems to deserve more music.
A Thousand Angry Panthers is Bradley Hathaway's third musical endeavor, but it feels like much more. Bradley seems like an old soul when he sings, despite his boyish appearance and joyful personality, and it fits his style. There comes a point in every recording artist's life when it appears that they've created "the album"; the one that compels listeners to pay attention. If that concept exists, then A Thousand Angry Panthers is that recording. If you're still one of those people who just haven't heard of Bradley Hathaway yet, you won't be for long.
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