Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reviews:: The Paperbacks An Illusion Against Death


A few months ago, Winnipeg's The Details started getting hit with the "sounds like the Weakerthans" label (which is one of the biggest compliments a Canadian band can get), and while at times the Manitoba band did tip their caps to the Canadian indie anti-icons, their record was that of a young band still searching for inspiration and the sound they want to play. That's not to take anything away from the band, it's just part of the maturation process and I think that when they get it all put together they are going to be a fantastic band you hear on the radio.

On the flip side of that coin is their Parliament of Tress label mates, The Paperbacks. Seasoned vets, the Winnipeg band actually worked with John K. Samson on An Illusion Against Death and the record should have been a stepping stone for the band. Completely comfortable with subject matter and sound, The Paperbacks may have benefited from the guidance of a talented friend, but by no means did they try to emulate his work (but man, Things Get Abstract reminds me of the Sun in an Empty Room and shows how much talent this band has).

Saddled by lineup changes and setbacks, the band is finally hitting the road and recording new material in '08. But even if they hadn't worked it out, An Illusion Against Death is a record that is criminally overlooked. It's almost like a tale of two cities; musically the hooks and melodies are infectious, full of crunching guitars, keyboard and musical flourishes (like the trumpets on Institutions) but lyrically the band hits you with some heavy thoughts. In 14 songs, they basically remind me what indie rock used to be and why I fell in love with it. In fact, if indie rock still sounded like The Paperbacks, well, I'd still probably be excited by it.

A track like Institutions is a song that could easily fit onto an old Death Cab record, but instead of waxing about lost love and focusing on clever word play, the song is more honest and told in "words I think you'll understand." Doug MacLean's gentle release into falsetto and simple guitar jangle balances the underlying rhythm section that is constantly urging the song to break into full gallop. The result is a stunning track, one that doesn't lose any momentum over the 6-minute time it runs.

The band can completely draw you in to a story, one full of sadness and grim human emotion. On Holocaust Art, you hear a man describe his days at a museum filled with relics from the war. Much like Samson, MacLean strips away the judgment, tears and doubts and leaves the most human of all emotions in today's society; desensitization.

High Praise
is an unashamed indie rock song that makes you want to turn up the stereo and roll down the windows, but actually cuts at scenesters (or just an asshole). Things Get Abstract is a summery jangle with sing along harmonies that finds The Paperbacks creating a loving haze that clouds the fear and depression of the confessional. The guitar crunch and female harmonies of Skinny Sidewalks make you sink into the track, almost oblivious to the terrific lyricism MacLean adds.

I know this record was released in '07, but I'm not sure how it went so unnoticed. Every song is terrific, the sound is crisp and lyrically it's deep and well thought but still completely accessible. They control the pace with slowed down organ laced ballads like In The Absence Of Notable Guests (the interplay between Doug and the female vocalist is terrific) and more driving rock songs like Rattled By Failure. Basically, this record has little to no flaws and can be listened to over and over and over again.

Posted at 11:30 AM by ack :: 3 comments

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At 2:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous did sayeth:

What is this pathetic crap? "I fill out paperwork to take you temporarily away"?!! I just threw up in my mouth. I need to go brush my teeth.


At 5:29 PM, Anonymous R.O.C. did sayeth:

Fuck u anon.


At 1:48 AM, Blogger welikeit.indie did sayeth:

Love them! Hopefull they'll have a tour through the US and not only Canada.


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