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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
The Paper Chase
Now You Are One Of Us
Kill Rock Stars

Rating: 9/10 ?


August 30, 2006
The Paper Chase set it straight from the start and never waiver. One doesn't even need to listen to their latest release, Now You Are One Of Us, to know what it's going to feel like: the cover photo of a half-naked man dangling from the ceiling should give the potential listener fair warning. Those who dare to proceed should prepare for more sonically induced haunted images and steel themselves for some of the most beautiful music currently being made. Haunting beauty is undoubtedly a theme that has pervaded art for some time; Richard Wagner's operatic scores and Edvard Munch's paintings certainly attest to the power of the juxtaposition. More recent artists such as Roger Waters have explored the evocative theme of fear through the seemingly opposite medium of gorgeous music. When it's done right the result can be quite powerful.

The Paper Chase travel in such circles of danger and release, adding a healthy dose of avant-garde styling. The primary instruments of assault are the commanding lead vocals, jagged guitar and hammering piano of John Congleton, who also wrote, produced and engineered the album. Suffice it to say Now You Are One Of Us is a product of Congleton's singular vision. That's not to suggest that the accompanying musicians are insignificant - far from it. The album benefits from the input of additional keys & vocals, bass, drums, strings and steel guitar. The musicians play as if possessed by Congleton's concept, staying in total control throughout.

The overarching lyrical themes, or more precisely obsessions, are death, cruelty, paranoia and more death, and they stalk at every blind corner. Whether death represents the ultimate revenge or final escape from cruel worlds, it is a fate accompli, deal with it. The album opens with "It's Out There And It's Gonna Get You". A phone transmission of a desperate man calling a crisis hotline is accompanied by a menacing bass and cello before yielding to a deep staccato piano riff and the ominous "I've got you now I'll show you all/ I'll kick out the chair let you dangle slow." Yet suicide be damned, the song is surprisingly uplifting, with its hymn-like chorus and cascading ending which lingers with a repeating "We know where you sleep." Here lies the shrewdness of The Paper Chase: they intertwine opposing lyrical and musical themes, twisting them into a tight knot of drama that is endlessly engaging.

The record also has moments of black humor which break up the motif. "Wait Until I Get My Hands On You" starts with a fluttering of ghostlike whimpers and the line "Go ahead and eat your death/ Lick your lips and see what fruit bears." The spooky sounds continue, as do some of the most bombastic and indicting words typed onto an album sleeve. The wicked irony is that all of this is set to jangly pop guitar and a melody lifted from Cat Steven's Father and Son. They may not make films like A Clockwork Orange anymore but The Paper Chase can assure you that this kind of wit is alive and kicking.

Musically the album is rooted in pounding post-punk, reminiscent of Rage Against The Machine, with a keen eye to the experimental and adventurous. No real boundaries, as noise coolly coexists with melody, dissonance with accord. The standout example is "At The Other End Of The Leash," a poignant ballad of abuse and retribution. Sung through washed out distortion: "Like a pretty girl in a wheelchair/ That still claims she fell down the stairs/ But if he touches you again/ With those grubby little hands/ I'll have to break them." The music is equally as heartening, and touches upon the hopefulness that somehow permeates this looming album.

Now You Are One Of Us can be a tough listen, at times intimidating, but it's not depressing. Getting past the raw language may take some effort, yet the fact that everything is laid out in the wide open is a refreshing approach in these mysterious times. Subject matter alone is just that: substance - which can be closeted or dealt with. The Paper Chase have peeled back so many layers that nothing stinks anymore. It's a distinctive approach, one that harkens back to the early days of punk and hip-hop. Sure, Henry Rollins and Chuck D could be threatening, but their bluntness was inspirational. Sometimes it's the cover that creates the real fright. Now You Are One Of Us closes with the line "Let's cast a mirror right back at fear/ Let's show this world that we were here." A brilliant ending to a brilliant album. Operatic in scope, ruthlessly ambitious in its range, The Paper Chase have dropped one the most unique and substantive records of the year.

Reviewed by Ari Shapiro
A staff writer for LAS, Ari Shapiro mixes up pretty unique smoothies at XOOM in hot Tucson.

See other reviews by Ari Shapiro

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