THE PAPER CHASE – Someday This Could All Be Yours (Vol. 1)

The Paper Chase - Someday This Could All Be Yours (Vol. 1) John Congleton’s take on pop music is truly demented; there’s no angst or longing to be found in any of his music, only bloodshed and despair. Rather than using imagery to which a collective majority might be able to connect with, Congleton’s thematic material revels in the devilishly obtuse. His melodies are twisted, snapping forth like rusted shrapnel into a series of always-open wounds. That these melodies are often as hooky and infectious as sane pop music makes everything all the more alarming.

As an engineer and producer, Congleton usually takes a straightforward, no-nonsense approach to the material at hand, so it sort of makes sense that The Paper Chase exists in the manner it does; it serves as Congleton’s own personal playground, where he can behead the guilty and conjure demonic spirits to his heart’s content. Given all this, it’s a little difficult to take in Someday This Could All Be Yours (Vol. 1), as the music here is decidedly more elegant and corporeal than anything that he’s done in the past. It almost sounds…human…in parts (though if it were, it would still no doubt belong in an asylum).

Someday This Could All Be Yours (Vol. 1) is the first of a two-part album series dealing with all manner of plagues, disasters and extinctions. So thematically, it’s already more rigid than its predecessors, which (although undeniably cohesive) functioned as little more than some loosely-related collections of Hell – past albums by The Paper Chase have shared the same torments and suffered the same fears, but everything else in them was wickedly ambiguous. Now that’s not the case here, but fortunately, Someday This Could All Be Yours (Vol. 1) htis more often than it misses.

The songs here work best when Congleton & co. keep their black hearts focused on the supernatural, as opposed to the natural. Songs like I’m Going To Heaven With or Without You (The Forest Fire) and We Have Ways To Make You Talk (The Human Condition) carry the same ominous burdens as the band’s earlier work, while songs like The Common Cold (The Epidemic) and Your Money or Your Life (The Comet) feel flat at their best and downright silly at their worst (it’s an exercise in extremes – the apocalypse is infinitely more terrifying than the common cold or a swarm of bees any day of the week). The album’s best song, The Laying of Hands, The Speaking of Tongues (The Mass Hysteria) works as well as it does because it not only is focused on the otherworldly, but it plays forth like some wayward occult exorcism that will end not in salvation but in flames. Now that’s something you don’t hear everyday.

Seeing as how Someday This Could All Be Yours (Vol. 1) is only part of a whole that I don’t yet know the totality of, it’s a little difficult to pass judgement on it (though I have no doubt the album itself, were it self-aware, would relish the opportunity to be judged). I can only say that it’s a bit weaker and more uneven than previous efforts by The Paper Chase, but when the songs throttle mercilessly into high gear, the band has never sounded better. And it’s just as well, too. Not all extinctions are created equal.

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