Papa Roach – ‘Crooked Teeth’ (Eleven Seven) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Mark Ashby   
Friday, 12 May 2017 05:00

Papa Roach artworkI think there can be no doubt about it, but the year 2000 definitely was a turning point, not just in terms of history itself, but also in relation to that of music. For it was the year that a new generation of bands emerged, mixing nu-metal, punk rock, rap and hardcore into an entirely new, and extremely radio friendly genre within itself…

 

Linkin Park were the first band exploring this path to come to my attention, with their explosive debut single, ‘One Step Closer’: it was hard to ignore – it was on every fucking music channel around, FCS, and all over the radio, and it had that sort of infectious groove that ingrained itself into your subconscious. But, that wasn’t the whole story – it never is! That had started ten days earlier, when Papa Roach released their own titanic introduction to their world: the surprisingly poptastic but thoughtful ‘Last Resort’. Both songs had a common theme: but whereas Linkin Park turned their joy into darkness, Papa Roach reversed the model. They also outpaced their Californian rivals in the charts, and it has been argued that the two bands have been engaged in a friendly war ever since!

 

The difference, in my book, is how the two bands have chosen to pursue their respective musical paths. Both have experimented, and moved outside the confines of what they initially started: but, while Linkin Park have increasingly disappeared up their own ambient arses with the absolutely dire ‘The Hunting Party’ and this year’s even more atrocious ‘One More Light’ (turn it off when you leave the building, Mr Bennington), Papa Roach have consistently re-invented themselves, with the “serious” hard rock album that was 2009’s magnificent ‘Metamorphosis’ (which was just that) and 2015’s daring ‘F.E.A.R’. And they’ve done so again on this, their ninth album, once again showing that they’re not afraid to take chances: ‘Crooked Teeth’ is actually produced by two guys – lifelong fans Nicholas ‘RAS’ Furlong and Colin Brittain – who had never done anything like this before, but just dialled up the band and said they’d like to work with them.

 

Which perhaps serves to explain why ‘Crooked Teeth’ sounds as fresh and energetic as ‘Infest’ did 17 years ago, while at the same time seeing the band pushing their boundaries even further: hell, there’s a cello intro to first track ‘Break The Fall’ and a choral backing on closer ‘None Of The Above’. The former track builds through a growling riff into one of Shaddix’s characteristic raps, easy in its restraint but angry in its inbred fury, as he eases back in behind Jerry Horton’s fuzzed out main line.

 

The title track is a slice of pure fury, threatening to deliver the same to you if you don’t subdue to its infectious groove. The rhythm rips through you while the guitar snaps and snarls around Shaddix’s mix of clean sing and challenging in-your-face rapology. ‘My Medication’ comes in melancholic and mournful, before Shaddix shouts out its title and then eases it right back into a depressive mood punctuated by moments of defiant aggression which reflects the song’s theme of battling the darkness. We need more guys like Jacoby to express their feelings.

 

 

‘Born For Greatness’ has a suitably epic feel to it, and sort of sounds like how A7X might if they were doing this shit, with its huge hook and massive chorus: fuck, I can just visualize a Shaddix/Shadows face off on this one… ‘American Dream’ is a fairly mundane hard rocker with a dark undertone which serves a warm appetizer for another of the album’s standout moments, the weirdly beautiful ‘Periscope’, which is as close to a ballad as Papa Roach are ever likely to come these days and features a blink-and-you-miss-it contribution from songbird Skylar Grey (nope, you’ve got me there). No wonder they’re then shouting for ‘Help’, with its contemplative darkness.

 

‘Sunrise Trailer Park’, featuring another vocal duel, this time with rapper Machine Gun Kelly, is a car crash - not in its delivery, but in its subject, but the former also lets its down as so much more could have been made of it, and it comes across as a pastiche, albeit with a good heart. ‘Traumatic’ is much more like it: a thumping beat and a guitar line that alternates between twisting harmonics and staccato stabs, topped off with a typically waspish performance from Shaddix. This leads you to expect something of an anti-climax: but, no. Pow, Shaddix subtly hits you straight in the gut with his genteel declaration that “everybody’s fucked off” before the song explodes all over your face like a hyperactive virgin, then eases right back into an ambient smoothness and then smacks you in the gob again as the song ebbs and flows with a deceptively aggressive grace.

 

 

‘Crooked Teeth’ is an album which showcases a band who may fit into a certain glove compartment in terms of rock ‘n’ roll pigeonholing, but clearly demonstrates that do that is unmitigated nonsense. It as a demonstration of how rock bands are constantly defining, yet defying, their own boundaries, in an unashamed manner. And it shits all over the opposition.

 

‘Crooked Teeth’ is released next Friday (19 May).

 

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