Walking Papers are the kind of present-day rock legends that you want to watch closely for new material. Something about the Seattle group’s sound makes each of their songs feel distinct and important; small pieces of rock history before history’s been figured out, catching the light like freshly-unearthed gems. The Boredom Killing Business has once again cooked up something special with the release of a limited edition 7-inch Walking Papers record featuring the immersive new tracks, “I Belong to You” and “Trophy Wives.” Written by frontman Jeff Angell and keyboardist/backing vocalist Benjamin Anderson, the fresh songs are not only enticing in their own right, but dripping with the mystique of this somewhat unconventional release.
Unlike the common 45 rpm 7”s, this lime green beauty actually spins at 33 rpm, providing some extra minutes to stretch out the suspenseful scenes Angell paints. And in an ode to physical media that gave vinyl buyers a chance to hear the new songs earlier, it wasn’t until a month after the release that “I Belong to You” appeared digitally on streaming platforms; its closely-connected B-side, “Trophy Wives,” just hit Spotify today. Either way, you should order the vinyl for collectible reasons (there are only 30 remaining copies in stock at the time of writing) and because it sounds fantastic. “The 7” is a couple songs we had recorded a while back,” Angell told P&W while traveling to Europe for their current tour with Stone Temple Pilots. “They are the kinds of songs created when we allow ourselves to get lost and don’t really care if anyone comes looking. We always thought highly of the two songs, but due to their hypnotic nature, we didn’t think they would receive the attention they deserved if they were sharing a table with other material,” explained Angell. “The songs are both observational slow burners and a bit self-indulgent; they will act differently if they are being observed, so it’s best to not let them know you are listening.”
Musically, both tracks are a grungy dive into Anderson’s nimble piano flourishes and the depths of Angell’s raw vocal emotion; a bit less adrenalized than their latest full-length release, WP2 (one of last year’s most important albums in our book); much more measured and building, like some of the work they created in The Missionary Position. The songs are a perfect pairing, and not just musically; in the first verse on side A, Angell cleverly foreshadows side B, singing, “You’re nobody’s ornament / you’re no God damned trophy wife” right as “I Belong to You” begins to burn with gnarly guitar and unhurried rhythm. In our in-depth interview with Angell during their most recent NYC show, he mused that he’d never written a happy song before, adding, “I was trying to write a sweet song; a sentimental love song…but I’m mining, still finding pieces for that.” Perhaps “I Belong to You” was a product of that effort; it’s certainly one of the most romantic he’s released in the context of Walking Papers, with vulnerable words like “I tasted your kisses on my lips / I trembled beneath your fingertips, it’s true.” It’s a vibe that’s fairly surprising, given the seemingly-sweet-but-wicked twists throughout their first two LPs; “I’ll Stick Around” from their first record, for example, is not about sticking around faithfully, but about waiting for something better to come along. While there are tender moments, “I Belong to You” is still draped in the cool edgy darkness that gives Walking Papers’ music that drop-the-needle-again-and-again appeal. It also comes with a chilling music video in which they’ve spliced together footage of snake-handling in various churches, aggressive sermons, and eerily dancing parishioners from different eras.
The B-side of this 7” is also memorably strong; “Trophy Wives” is a pensive song in which Angell describes the wives who are “leading secret lives on the dance floor.” The way he pegs so much of the human population is spot on – “tied down to a nine to five, waiting on their fifteen minutes,” a line that seems to reference Andy Warhol’s famous quote from 1968: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” Both songs would be exciting to see live, and either one would seem like one of those rare deep-cut treats if it appeared in their setlist. The powerful band – including Angell, Anderson, guitarist Tristan Hart Pierce, bassist Dan Spalding, saxophonist Gregor Lothian, and drummer Will Andrews – have a live presence that hits like a storm. It would be awesome to get lost in these shadowy stories with them and watch the rich instrumentation come together on stage.
Both tracks depict urban living in a similarly gritty fashion that many will relate to. In “I Belong to You,” they “shared a smoke on the fire escape” and “watched the drunks spill out on the street.” In “Trophy Wives,” “the city has veins / The sewer spills over and the traffic complains.” The scintillating record is encased in two close-up black-and-white photos; the front cover shows Anderson’s right hand pressing down piano keys; the back cover focuses on Angell’s left hand, his microphone departing his open palm and flying in the air (one of his trademark moves). It’s almost as if the packaging itself beckons you to take a closer look at what they’re doing, hinting at all that excellent contrast and tension – there’s a lot to sit back and soak up in these two intense songs. Walking Papers also recently announced that they have “more releases planned for the coming months,” and after everything we’ve heard so far, we can’t wait to see how their discography continues to unfold.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Cover Photo: Shayne Hanley