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Walking Papers – The Light Below review

Genre: Rock 

Label: Carry On Music

Release date: February 12th 2021

Members: 

Jeff Angell – lead vocals, guitar, piano
Benjamin Anderson – keyboards, backing vocals
Will Andrews – drums, percussion
Dan Spalding – bass
Tristan Hart Pierce – guitar
Gregor Lothian – saxophone

Track Listing:

The Value of Zero
What Did You Expect?
Divine Intervention
Stood Up at the Gates of Heaven
Going Nowhere
Creation Reproduction and Death
Money Isn’t Everything
Rich Man’s War
Where Did I Go Wrong?
The Other Shoe (Reprise)
My Thoughts Are Not My Own
California (One More Phone Call)

Having first seen the band live in Finland at the Circus club in the centre of Helsinki, it was pretty obvious they offered something quite special. Catching a band right at the beginning of their journey, just as their debut album is coming out is always something that sticks in the mind and I’ve managed to follow them over the years with the follow up WP2 offering me the opportunity to catch them in my home country and town back in 2018. The review from that show can be found here:

Walking Papers – Live at The Borderline, London, September 18th, 2018

2021, like many artists have discovered is the year then for new music. No tours, no festivals for over 12 months and thus the opportunity afforded to everyone has been the chance to put down some new music. Thus we find ourselves in possession of the 3rd release from Walking Papers “This album was different by design,” explains principal writer, vocalist and guitarist Jefferson Angell. “We wanted to pull the arrow back a little further before we let it fly. Music is a liner art form. It’s changes and dynamics are crucial to it’s magic. These songs are special in their approach to their own idea and I’m thrilled to share them with anyone who will listen.”

The first single off the album, “What Did You Expect?” was a wonderful way to tease us with the content for the remaining tracks. Released last year (August) at the height of the pandemic it’s as easy to wonder if it’s about the world at the moment or simply a reiteration of “this is what we do best musically, what did you expect from us?” There are always two ways of looking at and interpreting music and I think I’ll go with the latter because this is exactly what I’ve come to expect from the band. Bluesy, alternative, artful rock music. This is the sort of music that I always imagine Talking Head’s David Byrne telling all of his friends about. It’s got everything Byrne embraces when it comes to style, art, lyrical content and more. You never know quite what to expect from the band and the same was always the case with Talking Heads. Whether Byrne does wax lyrical about WP,  who knows….. if not, he should !

 Lyrically Jeff Angell challenges anyone who has dug themselves a hole, or who stood in their own way. I’m sure we’ve all done that from time to time and as ever with a Walking Papers release, the lyrics have been carefully considered and are given the exact amount of space within the music to allow the listener to pay attention, take notes and reflect upon the messages Angell is delivering.

Second single is the whiskey-voiced, bluesy “The Value of Zero”, the video for which can be seen below to give you a taste of what else comes with the album.

 

If, from the commentary so far that you assume it’s all going to be blues and whiskey, it’s not. Far from it. Yes, Angell’s voice feels like it was born through a deal with the Devil but the distorted guitar work on “The Value of Zero” , the thunderous drums and Benjamin Anderson keyboards create a fog of sound surrounding the band that bring to mind a darker dystopian version of the Doors. To be honest it’s that comparison that feels the closes if you truly want to understand the band before taking the plunge.

The latest video to tee up the new release is “Divine Intervention” and yet again it offers something new, something that holds the attention and more importantly makes us appreciate the whole ethos around releasing an album of new material. For those that bemoan the album and say “but the singles are the future”, no they aren’t. Not if you do it well and if you want to hear what ‘well’ sounds like then check this out. At the 2 minute mark, the song steps up a gear and if you’ve not been drawn in yet, this is moment, the point in the song where John Belushi would proclaim “I have seen the light”. That vibe, that feeling is the one that Walking Papers continue to achieve with each successive release.

I’d seen one comment about the single that suggested this was “proper music for proper people”. It is definitely the whiskey for connoisseurs of whiskey. Even the solo at 6 minutes feels like it’s been aged in an oak barrel for 20 years such is the emotion behind every-single-note!

This is an album that of course sees founder members Barrett Martin and Duff McKagan step away. Duff apparently has some other band he’s known for to be working on and to be honest , every time I’ve seen this band play, he’s never been there so Walking Papers for me has never felt like a band that Duff was truly part of. Barrett however has been there and whilst his departure is a shame, it’s not held the band back with Jeff and Benjamin more than able to steer the ship into new waters and a defining album that shows there is plenty of varied music to come from the band in the future. If anything, the current release that presents the band I saw live back in 2018 at the now closed Borderline in London, is the definitive line up that should now make great strides in terms of profile and success. This is a great release that reminds us that great music is out there if we look for it.

I’m writing this on a bright sunny Sunday morning. This is my church, praise the Angell.

Score 9/10

Reviewed by: Adrian Hextall

Walking Papers Links: 

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