7 January 2014

Papa Roach - Infest

At present, we seem to be running on a brief rap/nu-metal trip, having reviewed the likes of Rage Against The Machine and Slipknot in the last few weeks, so I thought to take the liberty of looking at one or two other acts that wanted a slice of that West Coast pie at the turn of the Millennium. If I'm honest, fifteen years down the line doesn't feel like a long time but I almost panicked when I realised that most of those bands I heard on MTV2 I'd just about clean forgot. Then I stumbled across Papa Roach, of which I have heard a couple of singles from this album Infest, albeit with rather predictably heavy censorship on the radio.

So, Papa Roach. They're from a Californian city called Vacaville (never heard of it myself) somewhere between Sacramento and San Francisco, more noted for the proliferation of silicon chips and electric cars rather than laying claims to spawning famous music acts in the Golden State. Aside from their rap and nu-music ilk, the 'Roach are essentially hard rock with a few gilt edged power chords and a mixture of spoken, sung and the odd obligatory scream. A tried and well tested formula that we saw with Zack de la Rocha back in the early Nineties and which inspired a full generation including PR. Behind the mic is Jacoby Shaddix and certainly he's got a lot to shout about.

Right, onto the album. Infest is offering number two for the Californian quartet released in 2000 and was their major breakthrough into the mainstream. Naturally, I couldn't get away from slightly overplayed songs like Last Resort and Of Angels And Insects and some of the guitarwork of straight edged Jerry Horton does feel original even if drawing comparison with AC/DC, Twisted Sister and Iron Maiden. Even more impressive as his music isn't under the influence of any substance or alcohol. The lyrical theme as a whole deals mainly in social decay and of anti-establishment and a possible lean towards the left. The opening and title track Infest has Horton with good, well interpretable riff work but the lyricism? If I'm honest, the first couple of verses I enjoy, but then Jacoby seems to run out of steam too quickly and suddenly it's like reading A Clockwork Orange. Surely he hasn't given up easily?

As it turns out, not necessarily. The aforementioned singles are written much better, but Blood Brothers is more of the standout track on Infest, it's memorable and was even included in a Tony Hawks skateboarding game. Revenge deals with the thorny subject of domestic violence but the few seconds of scratching in the bridge I think could be done well without. Likewise in its brief contribution with Snakes, which personifies Shaddix's enemies or his personal demons within, while Never Enough is a bit more straightforward and user friendly. It must be said the same goes for Binge, which the title in itself is self explanatory. We haven't heard too much rap since Last Resort, (rap which historically I've always loathed), but makes a strong comeback on the closing tune Thrown Away. Actually, I'm wrong and I stand corrected. Thrown Away is not the final track - Tight Rope is classified on the same track as the above and jeez...big big big surprise here. Much less edgy and far less coarse and what a departure from the general tone of the album! Suddenly I'm getting the urge to pull out the Police's Synchronicity vinyl, with its Andy Summers reggae strings and beats lifted straight from an Aswad record. Did Papa Roach suddenly have an acid trip?

I'm probably in the wrong generation as I think from a lyrical standpoint, Infest is slightly spartan and tends to lean towards reaching out to the late teens and early twenty somethings only. The stringwork however more than redeems the album and there is a positive energy running right through and it certainly isn't the disappointment that I was half expecting it to be. I've not heard much of their further material and I hear that they've ditched the rap and gone for simpleton hard rock these days, which is a worry. Maybe the street lyrics and scratching are past them now, but in my opinion a reasonable package from Papa Roach as they were breaking out of their informative years. And a great deal of daylight put between themselves and what I deem are crappy acts of My Chemical Romance and Limp Bizkit. By the way Mr. Fred Durst, you are reading this aren't you...?

7 out of ten. This is good and well worth a check.
Best track : Blood Brothers

Papa Roach Official Website
Buy Infest here on Amazon
Listen to the album here on Deezer

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