CD Review: The Paper Chase

Someday This Could All Be Yours Vol. 1 (Kill Rock Stars)

The Paper Chase offered a truly frightening sound when they emerged in the late '90s. The rhythm section hit like shoulders to steel doors, while dissonant, jazzy guitar lines screamed out in harsh, violent blurts and samples of knives being sharpened met toy-piano melodies that added horror-movie atmosphere. But it's singer John Congleton's crazed vocals that makes the records not just disturbing, but engrossing. Congleton shouts, moans and wheezes like a padded-cell denizen, and the result is fantastic. Then something happened a few years back: The Paper Chase started to focus on songwriting. Melodies replaced rants, hooks replaced disjointed riffing and a band once shrouded in mystique became merely an indie group with a slightly strange cadence. Someday This Could All be Yours Vol. 1, the band's tribute to natural disasters, continues this trend. Tracks like "Your Money or Your Life (The Comet)" and "This Is Only a Test (The Tornado)" manage to recapture some of the band's early charm. But for the most part, they've ditched their madness-centered avant-garde sound. The Paper Chase may still be too far left on the dial to earn a "sell-out" title, but the increasing pop elements aren't helping them.

Matt Whelihan