WP2 by Walking PapersRelease date: January 19, 2018
Label: Loud and Proud Records
The Guns N Roses road to nostalgia and banking the cash reunion tour must have put a few roadblocks up for Walking Papers, but thankfully they still release their sophomore album WP2 (on Loud and Proud records). The band featuring Duff McKagen on bass, alongside Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees) on drums, Benjamin Anderson on Keyboards and leading from the front providing vocals and guitar duties is Jefferson Angell.
Banish any thoughts of a Guns ‘N’ Roses mark 2 because their debut triggered intrigue for their nuanced, restraint, bluesy inflected hard rock. But WP2 raises their game even further as their culmination of Doorsey keys, ZZ Top guitar licks, and their Seattle hometown’s 90’s grunge down at heel street edge confidently rolls with extra shoulder swagger. It is a fuller sound than the debut but thankfully falls a mile short of being a victim of the dreaded overproduced production. This time around it rocks harder in equal measure with a focus on exploring lighter, soulful shades.
On the harder rocking side is the opener ‘My luck pushed back’ with its familiar sounding bluesy hook demonstrates their confident self-assured strut. In fact, every song is treated with a let the melodies breathe and they in turn will burn their way through philosophy, and they indeed do just that on ‘Into the truth’, ‘Death on the lips’, ‘Hard to look away’ and ‘This is how it ends.’
While the up the ante song-writing takes further shape when they slow down the tempo for a reflective, dizzying mood in the sublime ‘red and white.’, and the Mark Lanegan esque ‘Don’t owe me nothing.’ Believe me, this reviewer is no fan of the rock ballad but Walking Papers are too smart to fall into that category’s all too familiar cheesy trappings. Although there are a couple of false notes as ‘Yours completely’ and “I know your lying’ veer too close to U2’s widescreen arena rock.
However, in the whole theirs is an instant sound of a band consisting of sonically wiser, maturing, older heads whom have stretched their song-writing to wider variations in style. But their sound remains very much their own. The songs are fully rounded with many fine touches and flourishes by all members – Duff’s rumbling basslines, Benjamin’s swirling melodic keys, Jefferson’s classic sounding, ear-catching, guitar solos, and Barrett’s unflashy but fitting to the songs drum beats – and successfully captures interest.
But, for this reviewer, what gives Walking Papers a distinctive advantage is Jefferson Angell’s vocals. His on the cusp gravel toned, hard worn, lived life experiences voice is still able to deliver honeyed soul. And he noticeably spends time and thought on the lyrics which are packed with many standout one liners amid, one assumes, personal self-reflection and compelling storytelling.
Guns n Roses might steal all the headlines but Walking Papers are the band to turn to for intelligent rock and who are clearly in their creative prime. Let’s hope they can get out and support this rather fine and classy hard rock album.