The Paperhead have been Nashville’s best-kept secret for years now. The trio of Ryan Jennings, Peter Stringer-Hye & Walker Mimms have crafted three albums of psych-pop perfection, starting with their 2010 album “Focus In On... The Looking Glass” & last leaving us with 2014’s “Africa Avenue”. They return in fine form with their fourth magnum opus, entitled “Chew”.
Having been lifelong fans of psychedelia & prog rock, the band found themselves at the forefront of the neo-psych revival, but unlike many of their contemporaries, the band has deftly avoided comparisons to most modern- day psych acts. They’ve found a way to straddle four decades of music, cherry-picking elements from a crop ripe for picking. In most band’s hands, the freedom & convenience of music these days could be a detriment, but rather than committing the cardinal sin of many modern acts by drenching everything in reverb, “Chew” revels in clarity & melody. The listener finds themselves disoriented by the jarring juxtaposition of styles, rather than gimmicky studio trickery. This was indeed purposeful, as the band wanted “Chew” to seem like criss-crossing AM radio broadcasts. Melodic psych-pop drifts up against crunchy, progressive riffs and good ol’ steel-guitar driven country rock, but it all works. The most noticeable aspect of “Chew” is the band’s comfort in letting the tunes have space to settle in; the lilting, cosmic country of ‘Over and Over’, or the fragile, jazzy “Little Lou” which hints at the avant-pop experimentalism of Brian Eno’s classic Seventies albums are perfect examples. The album’s centerpiece “Dama de Lavanda” is perhaps their most accomplished composition to date, with it’s breezy latin rhythms - it swings with an assuredness unseen from the band as yet. Horns & flutes pepper the mix, but it’s the Bacharach-meets-Pretty Things outro that really hits a home run. The obvious peak of an album crackling with ideas & creativity.
“Chew” was recorded by the band in bassist Peter Stringer-Hye’s garage studio in Nashville & mixed by Cooper Crain (Bitchin’ Bajas, Cave) at Chicago’s Minbal Studios. “Chew” is released on compact disc & black vinyl, and includes a download code.
RIYL: Brian Eno, Gong, Nap Eyes, White Fence, Ultimate Painting, Kevin Ayers, Quilt
Posted by Richard Bone on 22nd Feb 2017
For me "Chew" is The Paperhead's crowning achievement so far. The songs are far more accessible than before (but I've never heard a Paperhead album I didn't like) a little less angular and quirky perhaps but also Chew's songs show a real growth in song writing skills. Used to be young bands would say, "Songwriting is old skool now it's the sound, man, the sound". Uh-huh but if any of those bands are still around they had to grow up and realize that song writing is the absolute heart of any work. I think The Paperhead may have started with "the sound, man" concept but they have, inevitably grown up. Their songs now are memorable, fully formed works that stick in your brain (in a good way). I hear slight echoes of the Shins, the Strokes maybe. But i even hear a hint of the Doors on "Love You To Death". There are also fantastic vocals and harmonies on "Chew".
If, like me, you're a fan of The Paperhead and also like to hear a good band become great, then I think you'll find a lot to enjoy on "Chew"
I should also mention the big improvement in the production. It's crystal clear and very inventive. A Jews Harp here, a sax there and many more Moog-like effects such as on "Fairy Tales" the last track on side one. I just flipped the record over for side two and they amazingly have morphed into a Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 sounding band.
Loud, soft or on headphones "Chew" is an excursion into the very best of modern, underground rock. I'll be playing this record a lot for years to come.