Sometimes a song matches the spirit of a movie so well, it’s like they were made for each other. They become inextricably associated: just think of the flick, and the tune starts playing in your head. Millennium Bugs would still be a terrific coming-of-age film without the musical contribution from Carbon County, and “Panic!” would still be a great song even if it never appeared in the movie. But put the two together, and the combination is explosive — and unforgettable.
Millennium Bugs is the story of two young people struggling to define themselves in a difficult world, and “Panic!” is a perfect expression of their attitude and predicament. Every power chord, punchy beat, and punk rock shout reflects the frustrations of the characters and their determination to transcend the limitations of the lives they’re living. The song burns with the exuberance of youth, but the urgency with which the Brooklyn band performs “Panic!” suggests the knowledge that time is running out. Its brevity is part of its message. The two protagonists in Millennium Bugs have no time to waste. Neither does Carbon County.
“Panic!” extends the excitement and abrasion of “Get Up and Die,” the song that established the duo as an irresistible force in the New York rock underground. Their appearance, too, is part of the provocation. As if to protect themselves from the powerful vibes that their music radiates, the two members of Carbon County perform in gas masks and hazmat suits — one jet black and one bone white. They appear in the “Panic!” video like a pair of rocking apparitions, manifesting in the middle of a laundromat at the peak of an electrical storm. Voltage is theirs to command: exclamations and designs in neon-bright color fill the air around them. Everything is dangerously bright, crackling with energy, ready to combust. It’s a lot like the atmosphere at one of the band’s concerts.
The “Panic!” video looks fantastic – and there’s a reason for that. It was directed by Alejandro Montoya Marin — the same man behind the camera for Millennium Bugs. He returned the group’s favor with a clip that amplifies the Carbon County mythology. He’s also brought along a famous friend: the veteran comic actor Tommy Chong, who plays the gruff manager of the Desi’s Coin Laundry on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles. He leaves the store to a couple of entertaining reprobates who know how to make the most of a blackout. The power may go out in Southern California, but Carbon County has their own inexhaustible supply of juice.
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