The Paperhead – Chew (Trouble in Mind, 2017)

Ok – wow. This year has been crazy busy. I have been all over the place and am only just recovering from what was an insane LGBT History Month (February). However, you don’t really care about that. What you care about is the reviews which are a little, ahem, late.

The first of which is Chew by The Paperhead who are, according to their Bandcamp page, one of Nashville’s “best kept secrets”. Ok – well, I didn’t know about them. So we are starting off right. However, I suspect that it was not meant to mean that they are just a little known band but that they are a rather good little known band. And you know what, yeah? They are rather good. Not only that, but the album has a fairly unique sound which I don’t think I really hear from any other bands right now; trippy, psych-pop. So sure, not a unique sound in the overarching history of music, but, right now it stands out. Whilst most modern pysch is doing the jingly Goat thing or the dark White Hills thing, there isn’t much 60’s pop-psych. Well, not that I know of anyways.

So what are we talking here? Well, I guess you could say music that fits into a playlist of the Kinks, Zombies and Yardbirds. Yep, that type of stuff. Thing is, when I hear newer bands doing that type of stuff, it just sounds contrived and naff. A rip off a time gone by. Realising that that was what Chew was made me a little apprehensive, but given my tardy review, I have had a lot of time to listen to it. I am glad I have. I could easily have passed this album after a couple of listens as ‘OK, but nowt special’. However, a few listens in, getting to know the hooks and stuff, have left me really enjoying this album. Yes, it sounds 60/70s pop-psych – but it sounds like a modern version rather than an out of date knock-off. Which is pretty sweet. It is also an interesting album. There is a lot there. Plenty of silly little trills and glitter overlaid over basic tunes but it all works together. In fact, without the sprinkles and cherries it would be lacking something. As in, the band knew exactly what each song needs and put it in without going overboard. Not exactly restraint, just a good understanding of how to write and finish songs.

Opener, The True Poet has shades of Stephen Malkmus post Pavement, with a dash of the Beatles in there in a good way. Yes, that right – in a good way. And this kind of music is the break and butter of Chew. Throughout there are songs that fluctuate around the core of poppy, lo-fi psych but with different flavours. Emotion (Pheremones) for example could almost be a Britpop song. Yes, really. Duly Noted has a lovely fast pace, really bouncy with some fuzz, but not an obnoxious amount. Kinda like what I wanted more Purling Hiss songs to sound like. The closest to a Fuzz like sound, and therefore the type of song I listen to most, this is very much my favourite track on the album, which may be a little unfair on the rest of the album but “oh well”. And Love you to Death has a good rhythm to it. Really reminds me of days in the jazz clubs of Manchester. It almost has Go Team! Shades to it – yet I find myself actually really enjoying it.

War’s At You kinda reminds me of Tripping Daisy before they got dull and became the Polyphonic Spree. Good, solid riff with sparing use of a theremin which means it doesn’t overwhelm. How many can claim subtle use of a theremin?  Between this and Love You to Death I have a couple of songs I’d happily play at the right club night.

The album really has some breadth, including many types of psych without becoming incoherent. Some stand out as ‘let’s try this’ songs. Fairy Tales is a trippy, washy song but actually kinda pleasant. Reincarnation and Little Lou have a similar pace whilst remaining nice, pleasant pop songs. In fact, Little Lou is very trippy, and somehow manages to contain mimicked cat sounds that, again, are used just enough to work without irritating the heck outta me. I doubt some here will agree but me, I’m good with it.

Dama de Lavanda very much reminds me of Love which is something I am very happy to say. Spanish guitar. Trumpets and flutes all working in union and not sounding bloody awful, which is actually pretty impressive and a sweet song.

At the opposite end of things is Porter’s Fiddle, which is indeed a knee slapping barn dancing tune as the title suggests. Not my favourite on the album, but it holds its place and you can’t help but tap your foot along to it. Pig, however, is just a whole bunch of fun. Bouncy, silly and Wurzels-esque. It’s not for everyone, and it is almost too much, but not quite. None of these songs quite over do it.

Chew is a noisy, fuzzy blast, of great fun and pure energy to close the album. Which is how I think I’ll do this. This is a fun album which runs all over the place. Well worth a listen, and it’s not an album I expected to hear towards the end of the 2010s.

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I'm a mountain climbing, LGBT advocating, miniature painting, Star Wars nerding, D&D reading, board game playing, comic devouring, constantly napping trans-female scientist from Oxford who listens to music that most folk will regard as pretentious. And I just don't care. Ha.

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