Review Summary: A few surprises and the usual stuff that we've come to expect from the stubborn, unmovable band.
Persistent, aren’t they? Taproot have been releasing slightly modified verions of the same hard rock/nu metal hybrid since they first gave us their major-label debut Gift
in 2000. The Michigan based four-player are as subtle as a brick in the face and as movable as your dad’s ’73 Dodge Monaco that’s parked out in the backyard; rap-rock angst pulses and steams across speakers like there’s no knob to turn down the volume. They pack the distortion on their four-chord riffs meaty and dense, feeding the anger, the hurt, and the resentment of every cheating girl or lying boy that ever had the nerve to walk into, and subsequently out of, your life. Yes, it’s everything you had simmering in the confinements of your mind seven or eight years ago, a time when this kind of music was really popular and pretty successful.
Now, I’m not going to start on a rant revolving around the key ideas of “this is dated material
” and “we’ve heard this all before
” like many of the negative reviews do for bands like this because, well, we have indeed heard it before; that’s pretty much a given. No, the music needs to be offered a reasonable chance. How well does the quartet play their cards on fifth album Plead the Fifth
? Do the rapped pseudo-Rage Against The Machine vocals still grate on the ears, and are the songs uninspired, recycled, and predictable? Is there any commercial cut here that has a slight hope of rivaling the likes of 2002’s radio-winner “Poem,” and do guitarists Stephen Richards and Mike DeWolf really repeat the same chord progressions again and again once more? There’s a lot of affirmative replies to those questions, as you might have guessed, but there are also a few surprise answers, too.
Plead the Fifth
is an album for the band’s fans, really upsetting no one, including the critics, with what’s delivered. If you hated this before, you will hate it again; and vice versa, if you loved this before, you may very well consider 2010 to be the year of Taproot. The best songs to be found here are the ones where Taproot put the obnoxious rapping to rest. Fourth cut “Release Me” keeps a conventional song structure with Egyptian-like accenting harmonies weaving in and out of Richards' verse, all executed with the finesse of a mainstream rock band that have ten’s years of experience under their belt. And on cut “911OST”, Richard sets up a deprived, wounded vocal take that juxtaposes fluently into one of the band’s catchiest choruses yet. Oddly enough, these songs are also the ones that subscribe the most to some kind of formula on Plead the Fifth
; it’s when the band try to get too edgy and experimental is where things start to go amiss. Too bad it happens on well over half of the album's tracks.
You see, any newcomer to this band would immediately be put off by the vomit Richards spews out on the fairly unconventional opener “New Rise”, his rapped bark a great degree worse than his bite. “Game Over” that follows is very much in the same negative vein, only this time the band make it worse, creating a mess of a song by unsuccessfully experimenting with varying tempos and loud-soft volume changes in the drumming of Nick Fredell and the guitar playing of Richards and DeWolf. Surely, it's not exactly the best way to open an album, and it's not until the second half of Plead the Fifth
that things begin to look up. It’s songs like the first two cuts and “Left Behind” that give bands like Taproot a bad name – and also the fact that these bands often refuse to get rid of this type of garbage from album to album as well.
It’s a fine line that Taproot walk. Haters will hate them again, and the only listeners they will probably appease are the ones who haven’t gotten tired of them yet. The band exercise the routine well enough on Plead the Fifth
, I suppose, giving this album a few likable tracks at least, though the remainder happens to be anything but. As long as Taproot continue on this course for their career, and assuming that they can make enough money from this album to continue, Plead the Fifth
and offerings like 2002’s Welcome
and 2005’s Blue-Sky Research
will remain the bar of quality that we can expect them to deliver on in the future. It’s not really terrible at all, just average, offering a few surprises and the usual stuff that we've come to expect from this very stubborn, unmovable band.