The Paper Chase

    Now You Are One of Us


    Hip-hop and electronic music have ingratiated themselves into indie rock, sleeping around with the remnants of emo, screamo, and punk from the last twenty years. Nowadays if someone asks what an album you’re recommending sounds like, even the biggest music nerds emanate a few uhs and ums before stuttering out a half-assed answer. On their fourth full-length, Now You Are One of Us, the members of Dallas’s Paper Chase incorporate elements of goth in a way that bears the vulgar honesty of the genre’s most notorious musicians.


    Sure, there are Bauhaus, Rasputina, Joy Division, and Switchblade Symphony, but I’m talking about goth like Nine Inch Nails, even Marilyn Manson. Those bands built fan bases around loud and obnoxious talent that made parents scream and teenagers rebel. They’re all leaning over the cauldron of the Paper Chase’s newest concoction, and they’re probably smiling. The album is dark, violent, and traumatizing to those sensitive to musical catharsis. It’s drenched in metaphor, but it unfolds an image so wide that you cannot escape it simply by stepping aside. John Congleton’s evil piano thrashing paired with metal-spook guitar riffs complement his vocals, which come spitting forth from the very bottom of his bitter diaphragm. “You’d better watch your mouth,” he warns in a track that could potentially be a successful single if the band hadn’t titled it “The Kids Will Grow up to Be Assholes.”


    Now You Are One of Us is an oversized coat that feels unsettlingly comfortable when you wrap it around your vulnerable ears. Sure, 2004’s God Bless Your Black Heart may be the Paper Chase’s best album in terms of accessibility, but the band has taken its usual dark angle and bent it another hundred or so degrees toward further obtuseness. The strangle Congleton has on his own songwriting and production grasps the listener. The beast of this album is very much the unpleasant and wrathful twin of what, say, Colin Meloy has created with his grandiose storytelling via the Decemberists.


    But let’s get to the album’s main focus: zombies. Thematically, there are several ways to look at Now You Are One of Us and if it applies to the living or dead (or undead). Congleton is using the concept of fear and the story’s characters’ own terror at losing their identities. His lyrics are reminiscent of a Vincent Price-like narration, sardonically introducing the listeners to inevitability. The album opens with “I’ve got you now, I’ll show you all,” and it ends with, “Let’s set our house on fire/ let’s cast a mirror right back at fear/ let’s show this world that we were here.” It comes full circle, but the more you try to decipher its true meaning, the more you will find yourself unable to discern the beginning from the end. Fifteen haunting tracks blend into one, and merge over and over again into one vacuous cacophony. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


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