Review Summary: ...Taproot’s fifth album, cleverly titled Plead the Fifth, captures the band doing just that – refusing to progress or answer their critics in any obvious fashion.
Pleading the fifth is the act of refusing to testify. This technique is usually utilized in order to avoid some sort of legal or, on a broader scale, consequential undermining of oneself. Two years removed from the release of the rather melodic Our Long Road Home, Taproot’s fifth album, cleverly titled Plead the Fifth, captures the band doing just that – refusing to progress or answer their critics in any obvious fashion.
Please do not get me wrong, Plead the Fifth is a rather competent release from Taproot. The album has a snarky attitude reminiscent of their earlier efforts in Gift and Welcome, and this is immediately apparent as soon as the listener presses play. Breaking into the courtroom, “Now Rise” opens with vocalist Stephen Richards shredding his throat – a common occurrence on this album - with the line, “On your feet now rise!” atop Mike DeWolf’s baritone guitar assault. The song’s merciless pace coupled with a crushing bridge possesses an aggression that has not been revealed since sections of Blue Sky Research.
Past journeys into ballad-like territory have been abandoned this time around. There are no “Like” or “Run To” numbers on this disc – everything brought forth here is impassioned heavy music. However, with that being said, Taproot still appeals to their modern rock fans by including cuts such as the undoubtedly catchy “Fractured (Everything I Said Was True)” and the made for radio “Words Don’t Mean a Thing.” The latter song, like a gorgeous prosecuting attorney, has an initial accessible appearance and sweet melody, yet features a darker, more convicting side as more of the song is revealed. This is a pop song coated with the grime of cruel intentions.
Predominantly strong material abounds on Plead the Fifth for Taproot. In spite of this, some tracks on the album just come across as the band trying to avoid the issue of progression. This is the single most overwhelming and damning criticism concerning this release. Instead of forging forward with their sound, the prosecution finds it possible that Taproot is guilty of catering to their fans' wishes of a return to their heavier material of the past, thus scrapping artistic integrity for record sales.
Possible evidence of this can be found in songs like the middle-eastern tinged “Release Me” and the uneventful “Left Behind.” The former features an interesting melody throughout the song, still the chorus is undoubtedly the band blowing hot air and to make matters worse, the song simply overstays its welcome at four and a half minutes long. “Left Behind” showcases some more furious snarls from Richards, but these give way to a rather bland chorus which indicts the song into mediocrity. Taproot’s case would have been made stronger if they had just left “Release Me” and “Left Behind” out of the equation.
Proportionally, Taproot’s latest album features much more quality, memorable music than lackluster, uninspired and exhausted material, and because of this, the album is above average compared to everything else offered in the alternative rock genre. Perhaps Taproot is being wrongly suspected of such anti-progressive transgressions. The only problem with this optimistic notion is the fact that with Plead the Fifth Taproot do exactly what the album title describes.
…And the silence is deafening.