I was going to start this with review by lamenting, “What hath the Postal Service wrought?” But as I listened more to the self-titled debut from Riding Paper Airplanes, I realized the problem goes beyond that. John Wu, the main airplane rider, is the latest sensitive guy to hunker down in his bedroom with his laptop to try to churn out the next Give Up. He gets a lot more wrong than just his Gibbard/Tamborello impression. He also fucks up attempts to emulate Sufjan Stevens’s tender Christian hymns and David Bazan’s existential struggles with melding indie rock and the church.
Bazan, master of the cryptic curveball title like “Of Up and Coming Monarchs,” would title a song “Homecoming Weekend in a Small Town” simply for the imagery of the words and then go on to have the song be about something completely different. But Wu plunges headlong into obviousness and has characters in the song talking to each other about high school memories.
Sufjan’s “To Be Alone With You” is so pretty and arresting that you don’t immediately realize the one Suf wants to be alone with is Jesus. But on Riding Paper Airplane’s “I Thirst for You,” it’s immediately, smackingly obvious what Wu needs slaked isn’t earthly at all. And his strident man-on-Jesus love is kind of creepy.
And so it goes through the rest of the album. “Rebirth,” “Jesus I Love You” and “King’s Lullabye” don’t even attempt to blur the line between pop and praise music; they’re strictly the latter. “God Is Light” is a woman speaking in an Asian language over shiny synths. I don’t need a translator to guess it’s probably a paean to J.C. again. And the buzzing and whirring all over the album seem more slapdash than Give Up‘s carefully constructed soundscapes.
On “Teenagers in Love,” Wu sings, “I could just give you more trite words.” Dude, no thanks.