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The Paper Chase - Now You Are One Of Us

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Artist: The Paper Chase

Album: Now You Are One Of Us

Label: Kill Rock Stars

Review date: Jun. 6, 2006

Now You Are One Of Us offers more of what made the Paper Chase’s last album such a perverse thrill – sliding, seasick guitars; an Albini-fied rhythm section; spectacularly detailed arrangements and production; and a similarly spectacular level of ambition. To these ears, this Texas-based group continues to be one of the most exciting acts in rock: its sound is simultaneously easily identifiable and flush with possibility.

The Paper Chase is ultimately an angular indie-rock band, somewhat like the Jesus Lizard, only the Paper Chase’s guitars wobble and stumble instead of stomping along with the bass and drums. The Paper Chase’s singer, John Congleton, is also more emotionally direct than the Jesus Lizard’s David Yow – Congleton sounds like he’s venting, whereas Yow and many other noise-rock singers sound like they’re holding back a little in order to increase the visceral angularity of their music.

The Paper Chase brings much more to the table than just vocals, guitars, bass and drums, though. Nearly every second of Now You Are One Of Us is filled with inspired production touches, eerie samples, one-handed piano lines, and strings. The piano and strings don’t play the sort of accompaniment role that those instruments usually play in rock music – the piano often carries the melody, and the strings are intentionally distracting, jagged and dissonant.

If the Paper Chase has a weakness, it’s the lyrics, which are as misanthropic and sloganeering as a Chuck Palahniuk novel, and about as varied. In the first two proper songs alone, the catchphrases include, “You will drop on all fours,”“I’m throwing you over my bony knee,” “We know where you sleep,” “Give you a sense of being stared at,” “You’d better watch your mouth,” and “The kids will grow up to be assholes.”

Now You Are One Of Us is apparently some sort of concept album about - I think - ghosts trying to preserve their identity. If I'm summarizing it wrong, and I might be, it really doesn't matter, because the lyrics ultimately are about the same as they've always been. Most are directed at an unnamed “you” whom the narrator fantasizes about seeing bad things happen to or hurting or, occasionally, having creepy sex with. The words are vivid and well considered, but their tone almost never changes, and the Paper Chase might benefit by occasionally throwing in something surprising. “At The Other End Of The Leash” is hard to figure out, but it seems to offer the only such surprise, as its narrator seems more reflective, if not more optimistic: “I come home first in line / Wanna loosen my necktie / But it’s your world we live in and we’re moving your furniture around / I’ll spend the next forty years moving the thermostat around.”

All this is nitpicking, though, because the Paper Chase brings much more to the table than most otherwise similar groups or, for that matter, most rock bands in general. Now You Are One Of Us is worth checking out for its amazing production alone – if more bands spent as much time in the studio as Congleton clearly does, there would be a lot more terrific-sounding records out there.

By Charlie Wilmoth

Other Reviews of The Paper Chase

God Bless Your Black Heart

Someday This Could All Be Yours, Vol. 1

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