PAPER TIGER – Chemistry
Given its rather negative connotation, you have to wonder if the boys in Paper Tiger actually knew what that phrase meant when they chose it as a moniker. Usually applied to an organization or nation, a paper tiger appears strong but is actually weak and ineffectual. Or just maybe they knew exactly what it meant. They certainly come on strong, the first half of Chemistry traffics in huge riffs, lead off track “Foreplay” pounds as furiously as a 70s hard rock track from the likes of Blue Oyster Cult or April Wine. But the second half of the CD finds them lifting harmonica parts from Tom Petty- the first twenty seconds of “Carnation” sound an awful lot like “Last Dance with Mary Jane”- and belting out Train style ballads like “Cycle of Violence. They set out to be Metallica, but end up sounding more like Matchbox 20.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. While their range of styles is admirable, their strengths as a band become more apparent when they trade the electric guitar for the acoustic. “The Sea” is a likeable saved-by-love tale (“I could’ve been lost under the sand/ I could’ve given up, but I found your hand”). No, it’s not Shakespeare, but it is sincere. Perhaps their most mature track is “Ames,” an aching meditation on unrequited love, the last line a painfully final one, “And I find it’s no use/ All these thoughts form such a pretty noose/ You’ll find yours in time/ So have a laugh while I swing from mine.” Ow.
I still haven’t forgiven Wilco for the fifteen minutes of drone noise known as “Less Than You Think” that precedes the final track on the mostly excellent A Ghost Is Born, so there is no possible way I can forget the three minutes of train/traffic/bird noise annoyance that Paper Tiger thought belonged in the middle of their otherwise generically pleasant CD. Not quite as annoying is the bloated monster-themed jam “Audrey,” complete with haunted house organ music, which ends the disc. I’m sure it is a blast to play live, but the novelty wears off and it starts to grate after repeated listens. Excesses like these need to be trimmed before I can take them seriously as a band, and not just a paper tiger. Sorry, they totally asked for that one.