Album Review: Papa Roach - 'Who Do You Trust?'
Papa Roach’s new album, entitled ‘Who Do You Trust?’, is nothing short of brilliant.
Papa Roach need no introduction, but I’ll give them one anyway. Jacoby Shaddix, Jerry Horton, Tobin Esperance and Tony Palermo form the current members of the band, who first rose to fame with their iconic anthem, ‘Last Resort’, at the onset of the twenty first century. Since then, they’ve sold over twenty million albums, and are still going. They’re also one of the most prominent members of the sub genre of Nu Rock, combining typical rock and metal with Jacoby’s signature brand of hip hop.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t use to like Papa Roach. Then I started to listening to them more, and more, and more, until quite a few of my favourite songs were tracks cherry picked from their back catalogue. Suffice to say, those tracks don’t hold a candle to some of the tracks on this, their latest offering.
The twelve-song strong album opens with ‘The Ending’, a phenomenal opening track with wouldn’t sound out of place in an episode of Black Mirror, a dark and contemplative track which signifies a significant career shift — the ‘start of the ending’. To be honest, I can’t think of a more powerful way to open their tenth studio album. Listening to it, my first thought was ‘wow’. Which, ultimately, causes the next track up, and their first single of the album, to be a slight letdown. That’s not to say ‘Renegade Music’ is a bad song; rather, it’s simply a credit to how phenomenal ‘The Ending’ is. Speaking of ‘Renegade Music’, the track starts as a slow builder, or at least as slow a builder as a rock song can be: it’s a track that is all but guaranteed to be even better live than it is on the album. If ‘The Ending’ signifies a paradigm shift in the band’s innate sound, ‘Renegade Music’ reflects what they aspire to be: which is, to put it simply, ‘Renegade Music’. The song calls listeners to rise up, to ‘get loud’. ‘To replicate is playing safe and nothing changes’, front man Jacoby Shaddix angrily seethes; the song could be as much about the political climate of the world as it is about the whole culture of music, where one could argue that its safer to copy than to create.
‘Renegade Music’ is then followed by the other three previously released singles, in quick succession. First up is ‘Not The Only One’, my personal favourite of the four. This song is less their usual rock and more a seemingly acoustic track that quickly devolves into a carefully contained chaos in the chorus — and sometimes some chaos is what a good song needs. Composed of Jacoby’s signature rap-singing, angry screams and a very pleasant instrumental backing, it’s rather optimistic, telling listeners that they’re not the only ones to be feeling a bit crappy in life, that there are always people out there to help. After, is ‘Who Do You Trust’, which was released simultaneously with ‘Renegade Music’ and is the title track of the album. It discusses the difficulty of managing true friends with those only with you for the good times and what comes along with them: quite literally, who do you trust? This song is typical Papa Roach, reminding me more of Crooked Teeth’s Born For Greatness than it does other songs on the album, which quite possibly is the whole point. The track acts as the link between their previous albums and their new sound, and ‘Who Do You Trust’ is all the better for it.
Then comes ‘Elevate’. At first the song reminds me more of Imagine Dragons than it does one of the forefathers of Nu Rock, with a melodic refrain of ‘woah, lift me higher / when I get down’. That notion quickly gets shut down, however; although this song may be more pop-rock than a lot of what has come before, it’s still intimately theirs, with pounding instrumentals and distinct hip hop tendencies.
This is when the sound changes rather dramatically. ‘Come Around’ opens with a backing track eerily similar to Mr Probz’ Waves and is acoustic, or at least as acoustic as Papa Roach can get. ‘Everybody says they’re fine/ but I know we’re not alright... it’s never easy when you’re breaking down but I’ll be there when you come around’ a particularly poignant chorus, speaking both from the position of the band and the music itself, with the music providing a cathartic release to any feelings listeners might have: the album is so diverse, and brought to such extremes, that no matter what you’re feeling there’s a song for you. ‘The heavy is more heavy. The pop is more pop. The hip-hop is mad hip-hop. The punk-rock is just insanely punk’ explains Shaddix: ‘this record is about extremes’ — and these extremes are provided throughout.
In the same way, ‘Feel Like Home’ is easy to listen to pop rock. ‘I hate this feeling / you don’t feel like home’ he croons, in a tremendous song that seems to show a more well-rounded side to Papa Roach, proving that they can cover the whole, rocky spectrum. Despite not being my favourite song on the album — that honour belongs exclusively to the final track, ‘Better Than Life’ — it’s arguably the easiest song to listen to and get into on the album, perhaps in their entire back catalogue, which is still innately theirs.
Then comes ‘Problems’; the track, not the concept. A brilliant song, although it seems to be one that doesn’t quite fit the band. It’s peaceful, contemplative, and distinctly at odds with their usual brand of rock; that this song IS theirs only further created the impression that this is a new band, one capable of producing the soft and the heavy.
Next is ‘Top Of The World’, which, similar to ‘The Ending’ wouldn’t appear out of place in a trailer. At this point in the album, ‘Top Of The World’ became my favourite track. It juxtaposes the hip hop rock with an incredibly intricate atmospheric sound, by no means an easy feat. ‘On Top Of The World/ we’re never coming down.’ — it reflects a band that is as confident in themselves and their music as they are progressive and experimental, which, despite seeming contradictory as a statement, somehow works.
If ‘Problems’ represents the soft, ‘I Suffer Well’ wholeheartedly represents the heavy. At only around a minute long, it’s mostly just drumming and screaming, and it’s honestly just good fun. It’s hectic, it’s head pounding and it’s a very abrupt change; the album constantly evolves, as it’s creators do.
Finally, the last two tracks. ‘Maniac’, a song about retaining sanity and rationality in a world of rock and roll, and ‘Better Than Life’. ‘Maniac’ details a Jacoby living in anxiety and insanity: it’s vulnerable, it’s honest, and it’s a great song. ‘Am I a manic depressive / am I a maniac / I see the reaper and people until they fade to black’ detailing the inner struggles, quickly confronted by the realisation that it’s all just in his head.
Then comes ‘Better Than Life’, my favourite track on the album, one of the best songs I’ve heard in a while and one I pray they add to their setlist. I’ll be honest, I don’t know what I can say about this song that does it justice. I know that’s a bit of a cop out, but I can’t help it. I just love the song. It opens with an atmospheric, electronic beat similar to ‘The Ending’, another track which could easily be in a science fiction flick, and acts as the end of a circular album, perfectly rounding it off. ‘Make me feel like / it’s better than life’, Jacoby screams, full of emotion and turmoil, before fading back to a calm demeanour for the verses. It’s an amazing ending to an album that opens with ‘The Ending’.
Words by James O’Sullivan