Issue #22.04 ::
Paper Tongues' “Paper Tongues”
BY JOSH RUFFIN
“Paper Tongues” A&M/Octone Records
When a band deigns to describe its own sound, it typically overestimates the actual scope of its influences. For instance, you put out a press release touting yourselves as “heavy, riff-oriented metal; characterized by tight rhythms, unbound fury, and powerful vocals; for fans of Lamb of God, Black Label Society, and Hell Yeah.” Translation: you sound like Godsmack. Hell, maybe you ARE Godsmack—in which case, you are scientifically the worst thing to happen to music since Steven Vai wired his ego to his dong and ran them both through Pro Tools. You sound like James Hetfield’s extra chromosome.
My hatred for bro-dude rock aside, Paper Tongues describe themselves as “club rock,” which is surprisingly accurate, and even more surprisingly not a bad thing. The Charlotte-based septet crank out a rare genus of hyperactive pop-rock anthems that are equally appropriate for top-down strip-cruising, background kegger soundtracks, and motocross-themed action montages, with a palate as varied as that list: lead single “Ride to California” would be a generic party tune in lesser hands, but these guys manage to deliver a stylistic brain-punch. Dub, hip-hop, electronica, rock, reggaeton…it’s all there, it all works, and that’s just one song. The steady-paced “Trinity” is all kinds of glowstick-ready, and “Get Higher’s” deceptively simplistic rock template provides singer Aswan North—think a Freddie Mercury doppelganger raised on the Beastie Boys and Aerosmith—the opportunity to deliver one of the year’s most impressive vocal performances.
Managing to make so many elements work together instead of against each other is an accomplishment in itself, but that’s almost beside the point. Paper Tongues have somehow accomplished the impossible: being unabashedly “mainstream” while bringing something undeniably fresh to the table. You like this band…even if you don’t know it yet.