Independent rock band Walking Papers’ forthcoming album The Light Below is one of the most welcome surprises in the very young year that is 2021. Scheduled for release Friday through Carry On Music, the 12-song record succeeds because of its unassuming nature, both in regards to its musical and lyrical content. From its start to its end, the subtleties in the 64-minute presentation make it such an interesting collection of songs. It is not one of those records that will appeal to audiences expecting short, radio ready singles. Rather, the album in whole is one of those works that requires listeners to give it their full attention. In doing so, listeners will agree that there is a lot to like here. ‘Rich Man’s War,’ which comes late in the record’s hour-plus run time, is just one of the many songs that this album has to offer audiences. It will be discussed shortly. On a completely opposite end of things, ‘California (One More Phone Call),’ which closes out the album, is another example of what makes The Light Below such an exemplary new offering from Walking Papers. On yet another side of things is the deep electronic composition ‘Creation Reproduction and Death.’ All three songs noted here are crucial in their own way to the overall presentation of The Light Below. When they are considered alongside other entries from the album, such as the Muse-eque ‘What Did You Expect,’ ‘Where Did I Go Wrong?,’ which conjures thoughts of The Doors,’ and the brooding instrumental ‘The Other Shoe (Reprise),’ as well as the rest of the album’s songs, the whole of this record becomes a presentation that is unquestionably one of this year’s first great overall albums. In other words, it is one of year’s essentials whether listeners are fans of the mainstream or independent realm.
Walking Papers’ new forthcoming album The Light Below – the band’s third studio recording – is one of 2021’s first great overall albums. That is the belief at least of this critic in particular. The record’s musical and lyrical content alike fully supports the noted statements. ‘Rich Man’s War,’ which comes late in the album’s run, is just one of the songs that support the noted statements. The song’s musical arrangement is a funky, upbeat composition. The fuzzed guitar effect immediately lends itself to work that famed guitarist Tom Morello has crafted throughout his career. Listeners can immediately hear hints of his work with Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave right from the song’s outset. The subtle addition of the keyboard in the chorus adds its own nice touch, especially what with the echo effect used for that line. The drums sound so tight throughout, along with the bass line. The overall instrumentation makes the song’s musical arrangement stand strongly on its own merits. When that whole pairs with the clear socio-politically charged lyrical theme in the song, the song gains even more traction.
The noted socio-political commentary is inferred even before the song starts, in its title. The very title ‘Rich Man’s War’ lets listeners where this song will take them. Front man Jefferson Angell sings in the song’s lead verse, “It’s a rich man’s war/It’s a poor man’s blood/Things will never change/It’s understood/You can ask for help/It does no good/It’s a rich man’s war/It’s a poor man’s blood.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “To the powers that be/We think the convenience of reality/I find it hard to believe/That you’d still lift a leg…It’s a rich man’s war/A poor man’s blood/You can ask for help/It does no good/It’s a rich man’s war/It’s a poor man’s blood.” He adds in the song’s third verse, “I see the world differently/’Cause I can’t look up to people that look down on me/How are you supposed to compete…” The line that follows is difficult to decipher without a lyrics sheet to reference. That aside, enough of this verse and the song’s other verses are understandable that there is no mystery as to the song’s lyrical theme. This is a protest of sorts. Considering that, the RATM/Audioslave type musical arrangement makes that much more sense. It also serves to strengthen the song even more. That in turn shows in part what makes The Light Below stand out in whole. It is just one of the songs that makes the album such a strong presentation. ‘California (One More Phone Call)’ is another part of what makes The Light Below shine. Yes, that awful pun was intended.
‘California (One More Phone Call)’ is completely unlike ‘Rich Man’s War’ and everything else featured in this hour-plus record. The gentle, airy effect from the guitars and keyboards lends itself to comparison to the famed Eagles’ song ‘Desperado.’ It should be stressed here that said comparison is only stylistic. The two songs sound nothing alike in general. It is just the stylistic approach between the two that is so enjoyable similar. Angell’s smoky vocal delivery, set alongside the almost ethereal instrumentation makes the experience in this song even more enjoyable in its own right. All things considered in this aspect, the musical side of this song makes for quite the contrast from the album’s opener – ‘The Value of Zero’ – and its own example of why the musical content in this record overall stands out.
When the wonderfully moving musical arrangement featured in ‘California (One More Phone Call)’ is considered along with the song’s familiar lyrical story of a broken relationship, the song in whole stands out even more. Yes, the way in which the story is told is a bit cliché and overly saccharine, but it still works thanks to its musical accompaniment. The story opens with the subject singing about his romantic interest preparing to leave him. He sings, “Give me just/One more phone call/One more kiss/Before you go and leave me alone like this/’Cause it’s gonna hurt to see you go/Put your dreams on hold to make/Mind control/Held your breath/Until your face turns blue/… gonna tell me/All I needed to know/She wants to move to California/She needs a change of scenery/She won’t take no for an answer/Who am I to disagree?” He continues, stating, “I wish there was something I could say to make you change your mind…She won’t make it through another Winter/Who am I to disagree/Give me one more phone call/Give me one more kiss/Before you leave me alone like this/’Cause it’s gonna hurt to see you go.” This song might not bring every listener to tears, but there is no doubt it will still move listeners. That is especially when listeners take into account the noted lyrical content along with the song’s rich musical arrangement. Collectively, they make the song another clear example of what makes the album in whole such a strong offering. It is just one more example of what makes the album stand out, too. ‘Creation Reproduction and Death’ is among the most unique of the album’s entries.
‘Creation Reproduction and Death’ is the longest song on Walking Papers’ new album. It clocks in at nine minutes, 23 seconds. So it only makes sense that the song is used as the album’s midpoint. The song’s heavy, industrial musical arrangement immediately lends itself to comparisons to works from the likes of Gary Numan and Nine Inch Nails. The heavy keyboards that form the song’s foundation work with the more airy secondary keyboard line and drums to make this work sound unlike anything else in the album. That alone serves to show even more why the album in whole is so unique. It helps to show the vast diversity in the album’s musical content. The lyrical content that accompanies the song’s musical arrangement adds to the song’s appeal.
Angell opens the song, singing, “I/Depend on the light/I know it ain’t right/I want you in the worst way, baby/My fate will wait for me there…I want you in the worst way, baby…If you got under my skin/You know I’d never show it…I bet you think you got a dark side, don’t you/What have I got myself into…You said you’d hold me ‘til there’s nothing else/You said you don’t know who you’re f****** with/The beads of sweat…Creation reproduction and death.” While much of the lyrical content here is difficult to decipher without a sheet to reference, it can mostly be inferred here that this song centers on a man who has gotten into quite the interesting relationship with a woman who is perhaps a bit of a drama queen. The song’s second verse continues the story, which will certainly keep listeners engaged in itself. When this seeming story is coupled with the song’s powerful, industrial style musical arrangement (again, which is unlike anything else in this record), the whole becomes even more powerful. It shows even more what makes this record stand out. When it is considered along with the other songs noted here and the rest of the album’s songs, the overall production becomes a work that is one of 2021’s essential albums.
Walking Papers’ new forthcoming album The Light Below is a production that shines from beginning to end. Yes, that awful pun was intended. That is evidenced through the album’s musical and lyrical content. The songs examined here serve well to support the noted statements. When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole proves itself to be one of this year’s top new independent and overall albums. The Light Below is scheduled for release Friday through Cary On Music.
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