Review Summary: While certain parts of the record certainly warrant the listener’s attention, there is a large majority of lesser quality that stops the album from being a truly excellent one, and leaves it, merely, a good one.
Hype. Every year, we see yet another band fall victim to its strong grasp in popular culture. This can, of course, be a good or bad thing, depending on whose point of view you’re looking from. From the band’s, it is almost always a good thing, because hype means attention and attention means success and success, of course, is good. However, from the listener or viewer’s point of view, it can be a deceptively annoying trait in the media when it comes to finding new music, especially when that promising new act on the scene turns out to be yet another by-the-books group of wannabe indie rockers.
So, along come Papa Vs Pretty, the newest ensemble of fresh-faced youngsters to burst onto the Australian indie scene, with their debut album, ‘United In Isolation’. Are they of the former, or the latter? Truthfully, they are a little from both camps. While certain parts of the record certainly warrant the listener’s attention, there is a large majority of lesser quality within that stops the album from being a truly excellent one, where it is instead a merely good one. Nevertheless, the trio, consisting of vocalist and guitarist, Thomas Rawle, bassist Gus Gardiner and drummer Tom Myers, present enough promise with their collective youth to warrant a look for any fan of Alternative Rock.
The record opens with vast promise in the form of ‘Life’s Got A Hold On Me’, an undeniably electrifying and strangely iridescent track that sets the bar high (perhaps too high) for the remainder. Mid-range driven guitar tones backed by eerie soundscapes assault and barrage the listener, while Rawle’s raw and passionate vocal performance soars overhead. By-the-by yet strangely compelling first single, One of the Animals, holds the role as figurehead of the album’s concept which, as Rawle explains is ‘about human nature's desire to always be coupled with another, and how love can sometimes be a vessel of selfishness,’. The verses are interesting enough to hold the listener’s attention until the chorus, which remains one of their strongest yet. The strangely melancholic and unorthodox array of tones and chords present in ‘Charity Case’ harkens back to A Perfect Circle’s ‘Mer de Noms’ days, and comes out as another of the album’s highlights.
Unfortunately, this is indeed where things take a turn for the worst. ‘Look For Me’ is a boring, subdued track that boasts uninteresting guitar work, gimmicky instrumentation and vocals that simply do not work. ‘Honey’ and ‘Conquistador’ are much of the same, with the former sounding like any other indie-punk track from the last five years and the latter containing that same arpeggio that we’ve all heard before. Thankfully, ‘I Felt Nothing’ is a heartfelt and somewhat epic Buckley-esque track which towers over the previous three. It builds in a gripping way and contains some excellent finger-picking on guitar to boot. The remaining tracks, unfortunately, offer more of the same from the trio, with ‘Bitter Pill’ and ‘You Are Not In Love Anymore’ being minor exceptions for their interesting use of dynamics and texture.
While the band’s previous EP, ‘Heavy Harm’, presented unconventional rhythmic and melodic devices throughout, ‘United In Isolation’ all too often resorts to tried and true techniques amongst their peers and end up sounding almost like any other group within the Alternative Rock spectrum. Essentially, the album is more than worth checking out for its selection of excellent tracks, although it does contain a substantial amount of filler. However, the band’s hype is still somewhat justified in a sense. With an average age of 20, one can only be curious as to where the band will go next, as this is only a debut album and there is surely more to come. Stay tuned, folks.