Good rock albums make you want to get in the car and drive. Really good ones make you feel like you could drive your car off a cliff and come out unscathed. That invincible feeling is one of the core things that separates real rock and roll from all other genres, and yet, it’s harder and harder to find amid the present-day mush of indie and pop. Fortunately, some bands are still mining for its elusive glow, and if any hope was diminishing, Walking Papers have restored it in spades with their second album, WP2. The brand new record is a 13-track triumph from the Seattle supergroup, packed with searing, blues-steeped melodies, pulse-resetting rhythms, and rugged lyrics that yank you from the soft reality that surrounds you.
If you were going into it totally blind, the first thing you’d pick up on would likely be the technical chops across the group. The mix of talent in this band is intense with Jeff Angell (of fellow Seattle bands Post Stardom Depression and The Missionary Position) on lead vocals and guitar, Barrett Martin (of Screaming Trees, Skin Yard, Mad Season, and Tuatara) on drums, Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan, and keyboardist Benjamin Anderson (also of The Missionary Position) all sneaking ideas into the final concoction. Their self-titled debut album, released in 2013, featured contributions from Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready (also of Mad Season), who has been known to make guest appearances with Walking Papers during their live shows. Their close connection to McCready, combined with some of the overwhelmingly cool licks that have revealed themselves on WP2, makes one wonder how involved he still is, and whether he’ll be popping up on stage with them again in the near future.
From the core quartet, the effects of such concentrated musical ability are song after song whose chords and riffs snap together with righteous precision; transitions that hit like a clap of thunder, solos that raise goosebumps like raindrops on bare skin, and the pools of introspection that come with Angell’s fluid vocals and gripping words. WP2’s lyrics alone are a cohesive piece of art – a poetic trip to the outermost edges of human emotion, yet not so deep as to obfuscate the gritty, real-life stories they tell. Perhaps most impressive, lyrically, is their knack for characterization; the subtle descriptors that breathe life into their subjects – whether down in the details, like “A cigarette burns between his fingers just in case he falls asleep” (in “Red and White”), or “He wears a ring on every finger” (in “King Hooker”); or stepping back to assess the full picture, like “We hold on to each other like two pages stuck together in a dirty magazine” (in “Yours Completely”).
And while it’s a thrasher of an LP that will make you want to trigger neighborhood noise complaints – with hard-hitting standouts like “My Luck Pushed Back,” “Somebody Else,” and “This Is How It Ends” that were seemingly made to be blasted through open windows – it earns its authentic-rock-record badge by delving into more delicate themes with just as much ferocity, namely in “Red and White,” “Don’t Owe Me Nothin’,” and WP2’s powerful closer, “Right In Front Of Me.” In a time when technically-demanding, real-deal rock records are frighteningly scarce, Walking Papers could have probably thrown together half as many songs and still blown us away. But WP2 is a rigorous, audacious album that achieves its full potential, offering up a generous dose of everything we’ve been craving.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Images: Shayne Hanley (CBGB fest 2014)