Album Review: Papa Roach – Who Do You Trust?
When Papa Roach exploded like a bug-bomb with their major label debut Infest back in 2000, they were an instant phenomenon. Frontman Jacoby Shaddix – then going by the name Coby Dick – bared his soul and his scars over a bombastic soundtrack of rapped verses, anthemic choruses and downtuned riffs, tapping into the nu-metal zeitgeist perfectly. What it didn’t sound like was the springboard for a career that would manage to continue over the next two decades.
However, while some of their nu-metal contemporaries have faded from general consciousness, (Orgy, anyone? P.O.D.?), P‑Roach have retained both a sense of relevance and a loyal fan base. They’ve done this via a combination of never-say-die attitude, a never less than killer live show, and a surprising level of musical evolution. At various times they’ve incorporated pugilistic hard rock, pop, electronica and hip-hop alongside the metallic thunk. It’s this willingness to embrace the new while retaining a sense of what pulled people towards them in the first place that has seen the band now reach their 10th studio album.
Alongside some of the usual new flashes, Who Do You Trust? also takes a few mightily deep dips into every era of the band’s past. However, they don’t always manage to get the balance quite right. It starts on an absolute roll, with The Ending beginning on an ambient feint before wrapping a shimmering synth around a typically compact and utterly inescapable hook. Renegade Music is even better, as it channels the spirit of Rage Against The Machine through a spring-heeled riff and a spat out ‘Motherfucker’. You can clearly picture an entire sweat-slicked room bouncing up and down and losing its shit to this when the band hit UK shores again in April. And, let’s face it, that’s about 60 per cent of the point of any new Papa Roach music.
Elsewhere, Not The Only One folds about three and a half songs into one, and each constituent part is killer. There’s the driving acoustic motif, the melodic rock bit, the nu-metal lurch, and the rap that pushes it into a faster, punk-tinged climax. The whole is even better than the sum of its parts, and it’s followed by the tense rap-rock of the title-track, which boasts one of the best grooves they’ve ever come up with.
If this was an EP that ended there it would be a little slab of perfection, but unfortunately there’s a distinct mid-album lag. The airy Elevate, the polished Come Around and the wistful Feel Like Home are all perfectly adequate songs when heard individually, but served up consecutively things start to feel distinctly lightweight. The laid-back hip-hop of Problems does nothing to re-energise proceedings, although Jacoby’s continued willingness to open up in his lyrics is always admirable. I Suffer Well is a pure punk lash of rage, while Maniac juxtaposes a lyrical downward spiral with an upbeat musical sweep and even a hint of the Pixies. It’s a welcome late surge, but not enough to shake off the mid-movement torpor.
Papa Roach’s 10th album, then, is neither the unexpected triumph or dated nu-metal fail you might expect. There’s plenty of killer, but it’s held back by an equal amount of filler. The live shows have got some new classics in waiting, but the album as a whole doesn’t quite meet past heights.
Words: Paul Travers
Listen to Papa Roach’s new track Swerve, featuring FEVER 333 frontman Jason Aalon Butler and rapper Sueco.
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