The Paper Chase – Now You are One of Us

The Paper Chase
Now You are One of Us

One thing you can say about Now You are One of Us, the new release from The Paper Chase, is that it is uncompromising in approach. This release makes for some uneasy listening, and it can be challenging to get through. But that’s fine, because challenges usually offer rewards to those who best them.

Many of the songs build around the vocals and piano (or keyboard) and would probably sound pretty decent without the other instruments. Hearing the songs this way would also make for about the most disturbing lounge act since… well… I can’t even say. (Who follows lounge acts, anyway?) Nick Cave comes to mind, and perhaps that’s one reference that will help prepare you for what you’ll experience when you sit down with Now You are One of Us. Make that Nick Cave backed by players from the mid-90s Touch and Go stable of bands. With a no-wave bent… and so on.

“You Will Never Take Me Alive” consists primarily of cello, piano, and voice. It sounds like what you might hear if you walked into a haunted old mansion whose monomaniacal former owner had died an untimely death before returning to make life miserable for whomever dares enter. “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” an instrumental, perpetuates the aura of warped haunting. It’s disquieting even though it’s one of the quietest tracks here.

“Wait Until I Get My Hands on You” staggers and swaggers like a drunken ghost, and the disembodied voices in the background do nothing to make the song less creepy. The guitars crash along in a form they’re put to often here. They’re brought in to up the dissonance and counter the rest of the musical goings-on. They fit in by not fitting in. The guitars on “You’re One of Them, aren’t You” screech and squeal when they take the fore. The Duane Dennison-type riffs repeat themselves just often enough that they become familiar without becoming tiresome.

The staccato piano chords on “…All the Candy You Can Eat” recall the earlier “You’re One of Them…” – and the fact that in both cases the keys give way to Dennison guitarisms suggests that The Paper Chase favors certain structuring to the songs. That’s not to say that the songs here are formulaic, but they do follow a few certain blueprints in their construction. FOr example, “All Manner of Pox and Cancer,” which follows “…All the Candy…,” really could have been part of that song for all of its shared traits.

I admire the band’s unorthodox approach to its music and its combination of disparate rock (the especially good “The Kids Will Grow up to be Assholes”) and non-rock elements. We need more bands to push music in directions it doesn’t want to go. That said, I will probably never be able to listen to this entire album in a single sitting. But I’ll probably keep trying (at least for a while).