I'll say this about John Cogleton: The guy sure does go for it. All five of his albums to date with the Paper Chase have never been short on emotion or dramatics. His band's patchwork industro-rock sound is big and histrionic and, when done right, damn appealing. But what makes his paranoid tales of depravity and longing work best, as they did on God Bless Your Black Heart, when Cogleton has honed his venom-tipped spears and caught someone specific in his cross-hairs.
And Someday This Could All Be Yours, Vol. 1 does that, but only in spots. The 10 tracks here each take on a different natural disaster. Opener "If Nobody Moves," for example, deals with extinction. The characters in the story lick 9-volt batteries and justifiably freak out and slam into each other as their end approaches. "I'm Going to Heaven With or Without You," which revolves around forest fire, is a well-executed litany of superstitions in the face of a biblical wall of flames, as in the last hour's faith twists itself into a weapon, as the challenge in the title suggests.
These songs, and the natural disaster motif, work well with the nervous doom of Cogleton's lyrics, and the nasal bleat of his voice. Since natural disasters are out of out control, and barrel down on us unimpeded, it is the perfect environment for the frayed characters that populate every Paper Chase record. And you can hear the band smartly peeling back a few of its signature layers. Sampled film quotes are used sparingly, there's more space in their factory clang-and-scratch sound to let melodies develop. At its best, this album succeeds because Cogleton balances his excesses with a hint of restraint.
But the album also runs out of ideas quickly. Despite all the natural disasters, each song seems to embody the same paranoid fear. Although it takes on slightly different permutations, it's hard to differentiate the germophobia on "The Common Cold" from the doomsday pall on "Your Money or Your Life." And Cogleton still pushes too far, penning a track called "This Is a Rape" and overusing blood images and brimstone seriousness. It's hard to believe that there's another volume of these songs coming out, since the themes seem so run down by this album's end. The band does achieve some small strides forward here, and gives us a few great tracks, but mostly Cogleton and crew leave me wondering exactly what it is I should be afraid of.