What did we expect from Walking Papers? Something captivating, for sure, knowing the adrenaline rush that is their rock and blues sound. They’ve once again surpassed our high expectations. The first taste of their third album, The Light Below, due for release in early 2021 on Carry On Music, is a spellbinding single/video called “What Did You Expect?” that just hit streaming platforms. It also came with a surprise: a sax-fueled bonus track entitled “The Other Shoe (Reprise).” Penned by principals Jeff Angell and Benjamin Anderson, “What Did You Expect?” is one of those songs that automatically stays on repeat in your mind. Angell’s distinctive voice and rugged guitar work, combined with Anderson’s ear-teasing and pleasing keys, create the sensation that you’ve been sucked into a dark film with an engrossing plot. The shadowy atmosphere is enhanced by the crisply precise drumming of Will Andrews and a hypnotic layer of saxophone from Gregor Lothian. In the unexpected “The Other Shoe (Reprise),” Lothian steps into the spotlight with a gripping sax solo that further heightens the suspense.
“‘What Did You Expect?’ is 80% ‘accept me as I am,’ ‘take the good with the bad,’ and 20% ‘careful what you wish for,’ ‘you asked for it,’” Jeff Angell told P&W. “There was an alternate verse, ‘You were born again / I was born to lose / If you didn’t want it to explode in your face then why the Hell’d ya light the fuse?’ That line might have tilted the scales a bit. At first, I was having trouble coming to grips with the lyrics as I felt they might sound too judgmental, but after spending some time with them, I realized the song was actually a request for acceptance and had a nobody is perfect manifesto. There is humility, empathy and understanding in the song, served with a slice of dark humor, a toe tapping beat and a sinister shift between dirge and delight. I like it and I hope it resonates with people.”
The striking red, black, and white video created by The Boredom Killing Business matches the tone of Angell’s opening verse: “Ain’t nothing open but the wound / And I’ve got the feeling that the end is coming soon.” Splitting the lyrics with a silhouette of his own profile, he sings, “You’re an open book – I’m an open sore / So why are you afraid to look if you’ve seen it all before?” Like a moving collage, layers of close-up objects emphasize the band members’ motions as they play in front of the red backdrop. Anderson and Angell get a halo of notches and Hz frequencies; Andrews gains devilish horns from an anvil behind his head; Lothian drifts through the scarlet space around them like a vintage apparition.
It all builds up to the subtly-eponymous line around which Angell reportedly built the song: “Heaven knows I never promised to be an angel.” He continues emotively, “But I suppose I needed someone to protect / Then you chose to give the universe an ultimatum / ‘Cause they weren’t accommodating / What did you expect?” The creatively-spliced footage is an optical illusion that echoes the depth of his lyrics: “I can’t remember anything / And the feeling is waiting in spite of every thing / I’ve got nothing to prove – I’ve got nothing to hide / If you’re gonna beat a horse ‘til it’s dead / Don’t expect to get a ride.”
Angell’s chilling closing verse, “Bound by thoughts that aren’t my own / But not afraid to die alone / You’re still holding on to something / 100% of nothin’,” is a bold punctuation mark, but there’s even more in store. The song’s skeleton returns – this time, a foundation for 2.5 minutes of sophisticated sax improv by Lothian – in the wordless bonus track, “The Other Shoe (Reprise).” The connectivity between the two makes us wonder how the rest of The Light Below might flow together. We’ll be on the edge of our seats until we find out, turning up the volume on these searing new songs.
Article: Olivia Isenhart