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the pathetic caverns - music by artist - The Paper Chase

eclectic reviews and opinions

The Paper Chase,

God Bless Your Black Heart

(Kill Rock Stars, 2004)

The Paper Chase's John Congleton yelps as if the words yanked out of his lungs have barbs on them -- he almost makes Bright Eyes' Connor Oberst sound like a crooner by comparison. God Bless Your Black Heart, like its predecessor Hide the Kitchen Knives, is filled with images of violence and psychosis. I find this somewhat problematic. Congleton may be exorcising his personal demons, as he has every right to do. He may just think it's good theater. But there's a side of rock'n'roll that's sexy and glamorous, and it's hard to sing about violence without glamorizing and sexualizing it (especially without distancing techniques like humor and irony). And it's my right not to support music that I think romanticizes violence.

There are also already an awful lot of songs about damaged boys playing with knives -- and for the most part, God Bless Your Black Heart stays squarely in trite lyrical territory.

So why am I even writing about it? Because every once in a while the musical side of The Paper Chase is almost as unsettling and interesting as the lyrics want to be. "What I'd Be Without Me" is the high point, blending dissonant King Crimson-y guitar lines with the overblown anthemic pomp of Marilyn Manson's Antichrist Superstar. Halfway through the album I'm tired of it. I have take a break before I listen to the rest -- way too much of basically the same thing. But for that 5 minutes or so, I'm very nearly dragged along, and there's enough to interest me here that I hope Congleton eventually outgrows his current thematic fixation.

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