Chew by The Paperhead

Release date: February 17, 2017
Label: Trouble In Mind Records

Whilst there is no escaping the fact that The Paperhead are beholden to those heady psychedelic days of Syd Barrett and Arthur Lee, woe betide you thinking they are just another retro rip off. In fact, whilst they may pigeon pick all the best bits of 60’s psych, they also have an unnerving ability to move in to more avant garde areas situated by Frank Zappa and also into the classic rock of FM radio stations in the 70’s. Never standing still for longer than 3 minutes, and sometimes less, they provide a heady cocktail of tripped out songs that make for an interesting concoction.

And so with third album, Chew, they have consummated all those various strands into an album which is at times the work of complete genius and at other times, a missed opportunity. Thankfully those missed opportunities are few and only come into play after a rather exhaustive opening two thirds of an album. After all, once you have been thrown down a 60’s psych hole, wound your way down country roads and found yourself being ear-bashed by glam rock stomps, you surely will get a little fatigued. It takes a brave man to listen to The Paperhead and appreciate them though, remarkably they make it so easy for you.

You see, that’s the great thing about this band. They know how to craft wonderful little vignettes that become almost time capsules. The addition of a trumpet really brings their sound to life and on opening song ‘The True Poet’, they manage to encapsulate everything great about this album. Almost a song of two halves, it’s jaunty psychedelic beginning giving way to a more elegiac affair as Barrett turns into Lee, all led on by that sole trumpet.

Following this with the mandolin(?) led ‘Pig’ which shows a more humorous side to the band is a stroke of genius and provides you with a chance to throw any inhibitions to the wind. We’re here for a good time, things may get dark, but on the whole you are going to be fine. Now here’s another song. That darkness rears its head on ‘Emotion (Pheremones)’, a slow-burner which gets lifted once again by that trumpet towards the end. That it then throws in a false ending before throwing you down a psychedelic whirlpool is all part of it’s unnerving charm.

Lighter fare follows as the country roots of the band (they are from Nashville) show through on the wonderfully light ‘Over And Over’. They then get all sophisticated on ‘Love You To Death’ which sounds like a long lost glam rock epic. It’s incessant melody nudging you along as The Paperhead display a knack of taking a song in different directions without you realising. It also marks a change in their sound as they move away from the 60’s psych to a 70’s FM radio influenced sound, all those classics seeping right through. Here-in is where the strength lies with The Paperhead though, and they seem to have the ability to almost create their songs as they are playing. Obviously well-written, they also sound like they are free to take whatever whim takes them at the time.

‘Fairy Tales’ shows an understanding of the dark side of tripping before they go fully Love with the ‘Alone Again Or’ aping ‘Dama De Lavanda’, basically a rewrite of that classic song, yet still completely of their own, its funky bass-line and trumpet evoking Haight Ashbury in ’67. ‘Duly Noted’ changes the pace into glam rock before dissolving in a clatter of drums before Nashville once again rears its head with the fluffy ‘Porters Fiddle’.

A lull happens as the band seem to run out of steam during ‘Reincarnated’ and ‘War’s At You’, almost as if their box of tricks has run dry. It’s left to the ominous tone of ‘Little Lou’ which sheds the overload of psychedelia for something much more simpler, to bring things to a great end. The instrumental title track provides a full circle return to the joyous optimism provided throughout this album. There’s a lot of nooks and crannies but ultimately it’s just a great little pop album and anyone with an interest in 60’s psych would do well to go here. Intriguing and enticing.

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