Papa Roach have released their ninth studio album, Crooked Teeth, but are they still relevant?
In the small Northern California town of Vacaville, four school friends, Jacoby Shaddix, Jerry Horton, Dave Buckner, and Will James, decided to start a band. The newly formed Papa Roach spent their first few years playing local joints and quickly gained in popularity with their blend of hip-hop, groove-funk, and hardcore.
Eventually they found themselves headlining venues like the Cactus Club in San Jose, the Cattle Club in Sacramento, and the Berkeley Square in Berkeley. Due to the unpredictable antics of Shaddix, and the raw power supplied by the band in live performances, Papa Roach captured the attention of younger audiences. In turn, kids showed their appreciation by faithfully attending all of their shows. In these early years, Papa Roach were able to support local heavyweights, Deftones on two shows, and have bands such as Incubus, Snot, Far, Human Waste Project, Downset and Fu Manchu open for them.
Infest was their first true international hit, and if you haven’t heard ‘Last Resort’, their breakaway hit that any early noughties teen probably jumped around in their bedroom to – I know I was one of them – it’s likely you’ve been hiding away from the world at large. However 17 years on, can the band still evoke the same reaction as they used to?
In a word, I’d say yes. ‘Break The Fall’ shows us that despite a two year break, Papa Roach’s brand of rap metal is back in force, with more impressive rhyme schemes showing the band’s progress over the years (think back to ‘She Loves Me Not’ for comparison). Wailing pinched harmonics on guitar and heavy distortion drives the songs forward, at points featuring nicely sampled gothic strings and an understated organ, adding dramatic effect to the compositions.
‘Crooked Teeth’ follows next and the title track doesn’t disappoint. Racing guitars and thunderous bass guitar keep the momentum amply supplied by the first song, with a whispered refrain and shouted chorus, the contrasting dynamics make for a song destined to lead a festival mosh pit. The lyrics retain the more ’emo’ notes that have leached into the band’s songs over the years, but this is not a bad thing when the band still has the same frenetic, borderline primal energy they started out with.
‘My Medication’ brings a slightly gentle end to a roaring opening trio. The soft approach to the intro does little to belie the chaotic nature of the song when it does burst to the fore with rapped verses and well-arranged guitars, keeping time and tone perfectly. The song is layered exceptionally well with a surprisingly complex structure involving overdriven guitars alternating with picked strings to accompany the vocal changes.
‘Periscope’ features Skylar Grey. Usually known as a guest vocalist rather than for her solo work, Grey notably co-wrote the massive hit ‘Love the way you lie’ by Eminem and Rihanna. The pop edge to this song is a welcome mini-break from pace of most of Papa Roach’s work, which can threaten to overwhelm, leaving the listener feeling fatigued at times. The addition of Grey’s softer tones harmonise wonderfully with the rougher voice of Jacoby Shaddix.
‘Sunrise Trailer Park’ – featuring Machine Gun Kelly – contains much heavier lyrics with a much darker message pertaining to drugs, death and bereavement. This does however, show the maturity of the band as they can deal with these subject matters. The duet of rap styles also make for interesting contrast as the song progresses.
Despite showing the progress the band has made over the years, it’s still nice to see some fan service being paid in the form of ‘Help’ and ‘Traumatic’. Raw and shouty, they’re a real throwback to the earlier works of the band. Less complex and with a simplistic instrumental approach, the songs are still headbangers (and ‘Help’ has a small shredding solo tucked away in a verse which you’d pick out well on a good set of speakers/headphones).
‘Born For Greatness’ and ‘American Dreams’ are slight curveballs worth a mention as well, hidden in the middle of the track list. They’re almost poppy in structure and lyrical content but the heavy guitars and drums keep us well anchored to the overall timbre of the album, and ‘American Dreams’ is loaded with a not so subtle political subtext.
As mentioned previously, the band have managed to show that they do indeed, still have the fire that launched them to worldwide fame nearly two decades ago. Although a little samey at points, ‘Crooked Teeth’ shows that by sticking to their roots, Papa Roach have been able to grow stronger. Pop into your local Richer Sounds store to hear it for yourself.
Author: Steve, Southgate store