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Now You Are One Of Us - Album Review
Dec 31, 2006 at 05:05 PM
- Now You Are One Of Us -

Album Review by Myles Griffin for thepAperchAse.net

Rating: 10/10

According to The Paper Chase: "No matter who you are, it's out there and it's going to get you." The exact identification of what "it" or the "things" commonly referenced in The Paper Chase's elusively horror-themed concept album, "Now You Are One of Us," remains unclear, but the album's minimal approach to allowing the listener concrete lyrical imagery for him or herself makes for a more potent listening experience in addition to simply being an amazing piece of music.

Now You Are One of Us is an album, not a collection of singles with the occasional filler track. Each song bleeds into the other towards the finished product while maintaining a strong identity on its own. All of the album's fifteen songs contain layers and layers of intricate samples, instrumental melodies hidden in the background of the song, and vocal clips. Even after numerous complete listens, new discoveries can be made within a song you thought you had come to know very well, enhancing appreciation towards the album.

The Dallas quartet doesn't easily fit into any one musical genre or style. Previous attempts to assign the band have come up with "post-punk," "noise wave (no-wave)," and even the odd "math rock.' The signature use of erratic, jagged electric guitars backed up by a haunting collection of violins, piano, and percussions form the foundation of the album's perfect eerie atmosphere.
John Congleton's vocals are atypical, but oddly inviting. While he sounds as if he would be the dark twin brother of Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock, Congleton takes advantage of his lightly accented voice by manipulating the lyrical structure of the songs to give and take further emphasis on his words.

To call the album a horror concept album is perhaps misleading, but almost unavoidable. The Paper Chase do not attempt to make silly imagery or faux spooky songs that reference Dracula and other Halloween regulars. This is not metal album. The executions used by acts such as Rob Zombie are not the aim of The Paper Chase.

The lyrics give the album its gravity, and how! With unsettling similes such as "like a pretty girl in a wheelchair that still claims she fell down the stairs" and images of "the house with the laughing windows/spilling blood like a cheap innuendo,' Congleton paints a vision of the world where the impossible isn't simply fantasy, but stark reality becoming horribly twisted before the victims' very eyes. Additionally, the lyrics tend to be a tad schizophrenic, switching voices between the innocent and sadistic "things," sometimes even within the same line. Although this nature of some of the lyrics could also be interpreted as someone (or ones) who is slowly becoming one of "them" and as a listener we are witnessing the divide/fight/breakdown between the two contending forces in his mind.

Yes, they do refer to some sort of horror taking over that appears to be a vicious combination of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, but the album is not simply about whatever haunts the protagonists, even though they have their presence known in a number of the songs, including "We Know Where You Sleep." Most frequently, the album issues a desire to make a mark on the world. To leave something behind despite the magnitude of it all. It also prominently focuses on paranoia, the desperate attempt to keep control, the futility of man's struggle against death, facing your fears, and, of course, a glimmer of hope in the face of the inevitable.

Strong as the lyrics are, the music of the album pulls everything together. The piano and violins especially come to life on their own, and set against the scenery of an irregular set of melodic structures and arrangements, the album becomes strangely addicting. As strange as it sounds, the music of The Paper Chase is just as engaging and entertaining to listen to as the vocals/lyrics. The band certainly have crafted the perfect soundtrack to the most perfect of apoclyptic tales.

As opposed to telling an apparent story, as some concept albums often do, Now You Are One of Us offers the reality in which the album takes place but never reveals much more than that. The listener gets personal reflections and a few brief moments of what's happening, but the songs largely shy away from being clear, effectively leaving much of the goings on to the listener's imagination.

The Paper Chase have crafted a beautifully macabre piece of rock music. From the creatures' threats "We'll get you in the end!" to the protagonists' defiant last call "Let's cast a mirror right back at fear/Let's show this world we were here," Now You Are One of Us easily maintains itself as the most engrossing, fulfilling album of the year. It's inventive, a consistently re-livable experience, haunting, and open to interpretation in a way guaranteed to allow personal solace no matter who you are. Forget the year, this is one of the best albums I have ever heard.
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