Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Paper Chase Delight in Tragedy

By Evan Rytlewski
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The Bay View neighborhood's impressive Summerfest counter-programming continues tomorrow night when The Paper Chase headlines a 10 p.m. show at the Cactus Club. I caught the Dallas group this March at South by Southwest, where they amused with an aggressively shambolic set, but it wasn't until hearing the group's newest album, Someday This Could All Be Yours, Vol 1, that I was really won over. It's one of the ballsiest records I've heard all year: Imagine a version of the White Rabbits' It's Frightening that's actually pretty frightening, or an evil Arcade Fire record that dwelled on death not in the romantic, abstract sense but in the brutal, physical sense.

Paper Chase singer John Congleton's unstable wail invites comparisons to another ambassador or ick, Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart, but on Someday Congleton out-horors even Stewart, singing not just of personal tragedy but wide-scale destruction, detailing on each song a different harrowing disaster—a fire, a blizzard, a tornado—with little in the way of compassion. "This flood wants to rape you," Congleton chimes on "This Is A Rape (The Flood)," "We've all come to save you, but first we're going to see how loud you scream." The record is so gruesome that it sometimes borders on comical, but at its best, it's downright grotesque. The germaphobic, in particular, may want to skip "The Common Cold (The Epidemic)," a song that's probably increased my Purell consumption twofold in the weeks since I first heard it.

Congleton, incidentally, is emerging as one of indie-rock's most distinct producers, bringing a direct, foreboding sound to albums from Modest Mouse, The Thermals and the Mountain Goats. Notably, he also produced the fantastic, upcoming record from Milwaukee's Red Knife Lottery, who conveniently open for The Paper Chase tomorrow night along with Call Me Lightning.  

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