As the buzz around Walking Papers’ third record continues to crescendo, we are beyond psyched to premiere the second taste of it today: a hypnotic single and video entitled “The Value of Zero.” Soak it up here ahead of its official release tomorrow and let your soul drift away with some of our favorite rock heroes. Built on a pulse-altering beat and dripping with tension, “The Value of Zero” urges us to “trust no one” and touches on the way that pain begets pain – “Hurt People Hurt People,” as Jeff Angell sings in this thought-provoking track. Following the album’s first fiery single, “What Did You Expect?” and surprise companion “The Other Shoe (Reprise),” this suspenseful scorcher bolsters our high hopes for the Seattle band’s new LP, The Light Below, due for release in February 2021.
“‘The Value of Zero’ is about freeing oneself from the dead weight of others’ opinions with the hope of finding a more personal truth,” Jeff Angell told P&W. “As much as I appreciate insight and being informed, many sources seem to have a cognitive bias or an agenda. Those can become vampires of time and energy. Personally, I’m feeling if I don’t keep them in check, I might lose the ability to think for myself. That is, if I truly am anymore. I like the idea of a blank slate. I’m not sure it’s possible to achieve, but contemplating it gives my chaotic brain something to focus on.”
In addition to the fundamental drum beat by Will Andrews that gives “The Value of Zero” so much character, there’s another one-of-a-kind component: a mechanical submarine-like noise that eerily embellishes the rhythm. When we asked Angell about this effect, he explained, “The human body is electrically conductive. So touching the end of a guitar cable produces a circuit, which creates a buzz. Run that through a bunch of effects at a loud volume and voilà! I’ve always liked the idea of noise as an instrument.” Adding to the song’s coolly foreboding vibe, the warm sound of saxophonist Gregor Lothian is intriguingly distorted, melting together with the deep drones of key bass that hum beneath it all.
In another striking video created by The Boredom Killing Business, Angell appears outside of a drab and nondescript apartment. In his emotive timbre, he delivers his first chilling lines through the door’s peephole: “Beyond the bottle-neck – where time stands still / I can feel the chill of if I can’t have you, no one will.” Through the same peephole – a zero-like frame around much of the footage – we can see keyboardist Benjamin Anderson typing away on a dusty Victor adding machine that looks at least seventy years old. The visual trick that the music is coming from this antique machine further highlights his nimble work. Anderson, Andrews, and Lothian are seen illuminating a large Edison bulb with their fingertips, and Angell’s lyrics are equally sensory: “You pulled me from the wreck / You sunk your teeth into my neck / Now all I feel are the side effects? / Hurt People Hurt People / I’ve paid the price for being right / I’m doomed to dwell in endless night / That’s where I find you holding on to lies like I do.”
Unveiling a collage treatment similar to the “What Did You Expect?” video, Angell opens the door to find a twitching brown eye that fills the whole doorframe. He leaves it there and turns away to pull out a pair of scissors, right on time with the chorus, “I’m the scissors you’re the string / I’m letting go of everything / ‘Cause I need you to know / The value of zero / Time distorts my memories / The dream became a liability / Says the scissors you’re the string / Trust no one question everything / The value of zero.” The shadowy melody keeps your brain locked in to the lyrics, which Angell delivers with ache-inducing intensity: “Like a snake eating its own tail / An endless knot where these fools prevail / Truth be told – Without fail / Hurt People Hurt People / If there’s blood it won’t be mine / ‘Cause I’ve seen the truth and it ain’t kind / What do I care? – What else is there? / I’ve had my share.”
The video’s closing scene brings a surreal change in environment, placing Angell, Anderson, Andrews, and Lothian in a desert landscape that could be on another planet. Angell’s final words seem to sever ties – “You’re the one my heart responds to / The only truth worth holding onto / But the center will not hold / The value of zero” – and he finally slices the air with his scissors, a symbolic cut that also snuffs out the light. If this single gets you craving more like we are, don’t forget: you could get a very early spin of forthcoming album The Light Below via a special Record Store Day release for Black Friday 2020 on limited edition double white vinyl. The album is officially out in February 2021 and you can presave it here. To tide you over until then, you might enjoy taking a peek into Jeff Angell’s laptop and mind via this unforgettable interview in NYC. Make sure you’re following Walking Papers on their social channels for more updates about their invigorating music.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photo: Marcus Cooper