Review Summary: Papa Roach hole up in a Los Angeles mansion and emerge several months later with perhaps the best modern rock album of the year. The key here is matured songwriting and a sharp unified focus. Oh yeah, and it also rocks like hell.
"Taking it back to a hardcore level/Better be ready put your pedal to the metal"
For some fans of this four piece rock band from Cali the above line which helps kick off "The Paramour Sessions" is what this group of once Rap Rock/Nu-Metal superstars is all about. Or in this case what they were
all about as this album finds Papa Roach growing further away from their musical roots and drawing closer to a modern hard rock style that allows them to flex their creative and musical muscles, yet stay fundamentally hard, thrashy, and for lack of a better term, true
, to what fans of this group have come to want and expect of them.
Recorded in the Los Angeles artist/musician/actor/ community of Silverlake which lies just east of the sleazy streets of Hollywood and just west of the mexican barrios
of the eastside of the city, Papa Roach took up residence for eight months in late '05 to mid '06 at the infamous mansion turned recording studio which gave this album its name and along with producer Howard Benson has crafted the most well rounded, confident, and best sounding music of of the bands thirteen year career. Whether or not the album will please everyone who has an idea of what this band is supposed
to be is most likely besides the point. The Paramour Sessions has the feel and ease of a good rock n roll band making great music with the confidence and assurance of a group who knows making music to please yourself ought to be enough for any rock fan who would care to listen and give it a fair shot on its own terms. And with that in mind this album delivers the hard, the heavy, and yes, the melodic sounds of the modern rock mainstream in spades.
Picking up basically where the band last left us on the "Getting Away With Murder" LP but with a heavier and more full bodied sound, the band rips into ".....To Be Loved". And from the outset its clear Papa Roach has Hard Rock 101 down to a sweet science, giving this track all the blistering guitar work, heavy bass thunder, and angsty lyrical edginess needed to draw old and new fans alike into the fold with very little to complain about from either side of the fence. Kicking it up another notch with the next track "Alive", and the group gives their Nu-Metal fans of old something to chew on with fast, heavy guitar riffing and the solid and brisk playing of drummer Dave Buckner. The musicianship is dead solid and tight as on other Papa albums, and as the next few songs show the playing can also be a little of what we haven't considered this band in the past. Which is loose, limber, and swinging. The propulsive and beat heavy "Crash" is dynamic and well played and avoids the metal over indulgence it could of fell into in favor of a more melodic approach, and the tuneful "The World Around You" is as rock radio friendly and mainstream as any modern rock song about a break up as you are likely to hear all year. But what sets Papa Roach apart from others who may attempt the same with far less success is the history this band has to lean on. In turn heavy when they need to be, quieter when the song calls for it, and explosive and dynamic all within the same breath, this is nothing unique in todays rock world. What is unique is how well it is done on The Paramour Sessions and how seamlessly it is delivered, leaving very little for the nu-metal guy, hardcore, or more mainstream among us to complain about.
That said, not all is created equal on this album, and the band does suffer a few missteps. The generic and dirge like "What Do You Do" is dead on arrival with its plodding rhythm and cliched over cooked lyrics ("I got a one way ticket on a hellbound train/Got nothing to lose and nothing to gain") and sounds like it could be a cover of a late '80's Skid Row track with its bombastic production and choir like background vocals of "oh oh oh". Likewise the too common riffs and screaming vocals of "No More Secrets" sounds reminiscent of some long ago Guns n Roses dreck. And the album closer "Roses On My Grave" with its stringed orchestra treatment is just ill advised and tired after what has come before. But even so, it's not so much these are poor tracks as they are tunes that simply don't measure up to the songwriting on the rest of the album. And its the songwriting, that often overlooked ingredient when we talk about heavy music and the bands who play it, which is the secret weapon here. The straight forward and hard charging "I Devise My Own Demise" is full of so many tried and true hard rock hooks played with precision that its nearly joyous. And the crunchy, almost spunky sing-song style of "Time Is Running Out", while common in a modern rock sort of way, is nonetheless wrapped up in a tight melody and fluid rhythm that would no doubt sound just as well played on a single acoustic guitar. And "The Fire", perhaps the best pure song on the album, is simply three romantic minutes of hard rock bliss and hard pop hooks that will have the tune dancing around in your head for days after your first few listens. And thats about all you can ask of any record no matter how heavy, hard, or otherwise.
For some bands, deciding to live together in the same space to write and record music for several months could lead to fights, disruptions, and the sort of tension that might produce mixed results at best and disastrous ones at the very worst. Even if all goes well the free flowing creativity, and in the words of Papa Roach guitarist Jerry Horton, the ability to bring "new life into the writing process and help us reconnect musically and spiritually" can sometimes blind a group to the realities of the music they are producing and bring forth a self indulgent mess or a confused jumbo of an album that misses the mark by a little or a lot, depending on who you are. But on The Paramour Sessions Papa Roach has succeeded on almost every level at what they intended to do with this record. With a sharp focus they have not only built on the promise of their last recording but in fact have blazed a new trail for future ones as well. Not content with the strict confines or lofty expectations that held this band back creatively in the past, The Paramour Sessions gives us that little bit more which often times makes the biggest difference in rock music. Creative, direct, honest, and in many ways just as grand as the Paramour Mansion Ballroom it was recorded in, Papa Roach has given us the best album it has produced to date and something to look forward to from this band in the future. Far from a step backward and about as far from its Rap/Rock origins as a band can get, The Paramour Sessions is alive
with the sound of great rock n roll played just for the sake of it. And whether you are Chuck Berry, Elvis, The Stones, Papa Roach, or the latest "trend genre" band on MTV, thats about as good as music gets.