The long awaited second album by Walking Papers, WP2, is released on 19th January 2018. Walking Papers is a collaboration of Jefferson Angell (guitar, vocals) Barrett Martin (drums, vibes, percussion, backing vocals) Duff McKagan (bass) and Benjamin Anderson (keyboards, backing vocals).
The hard-rocking Seattle quartet Walking Papers knows exactly how to forge the sounds that back up everything they want to be as a vibrant creative entity. “There’s no excuse to not be great anymore,” believes WP frontman, guitarist/vocalist Jefferson Angell. “Everyone now has access to everything related to music, right at their fingertips — every recorded sound, endless lessons for kids to learn every guitar lick, and the very foundation of music and where it all comes from. In a weird way, I think that raises the bar for what artists need to do with their own work.”
This is a very long review as it also contains information from Walking Papers that I wanted to pass on. I have therefore split the review into sections so you can read the parts you want more easily.
WP2 is released on Loud & Proud Records and was engineered by Jack Endino (Soundgarden, Nirvana, Mudhoney) and Martin Feveyear (Mark Lanegan, Kings of Leon, Queens of the Stone Age). WP2 builds on the promising template of the band’s self-titled 2013 debut, which featured deeply impactful tracks like “The Whole World’s Watching” and “Capital T.” WP2 brings the band into their wholly ascendant second phase with aurally galvanizing statements like the fuzztastic footstomper Death on the Lips, the anthemic buildup of Red & White, and the delicate yet forceful declarative shuffle of Don’t Owe Me Nothin’.
My Luck Pushed Back begins with a deep pulsating bass line over which we hear the sneer of the vocals, encapsulating grit as well as humour. The bass line bounces along throughout the track perfectly providing contrast to the fluid riffs. The drums throb adding additional distinction. If you have been desperate to know if Walking Papers still have the magic that they left with us from their first album you will find out that they do and if anything, they have upped the stakes here
Death on the Lips combines 70’s style keys with passionate, aching vocals. With subtle changes in the tempo that emphasise the drums, bringing the vocals to the fore. It seems to have a subtext that is dark and menacing but with a really catchy beat that you cannot help but be mesmerised by.
Sultry and brooding Red & White takes hold with a rhythmic build up of intensity and passion, which the gravelly vocals express eloquently. I loved the interplay between the drums and keys. This is a sumptuous and voluptuous track that envelops and holds you like a lover, who keeps you wanting more but when they deliver, boy, do you know it!
Somebody Else is packed full of swagger. From the intricate drumming to the heavy bass that is well rounded and aggressively barking guitar. The riff is packed with so much fuzz it demands attention as it is dramatic and vibrant. Yours Completely shows the musicality of the band, the drumming is complex, with a brooding bass line and keys that bring additional drama to the mix. I loved the way that the drumming ebbs and flows from the foreground to background.
Hard To Look Away has a buzzy 60’s vibe with piercing riffs and will get you singing “You don’t leave much to the imagination” before the track has ended. The bass and keys really demand your attention and bring so much to this track, from the funk and groove of the keys to the driving, powerful bass. Featuring funky keys and gravelly, rich vocals Before You Arrived has a more stripped back feel. The conversation between the vocals and drums provides the snarl and sneer whilst the bass delivers the groove. Don’t Owe Me Nothing has an almost country vibe. It is another paired back track and is the ballad of the album. The sparkle from the keys provides a real contrast to the aching vocals that convey so much emotion.
This Is How It Ends is contrast as we are met with an intense sound with the keys adding texture swooping to envelop the bass which reaches down into the depths of your soul. The elegant drumming feels like a heartbeat in the background which build to a frenzy. The story telling is brought together by both the instrumentation and the vocals.
I Know You’re Lying has great rhythm that really gets your toes tapping from the first chord. Featuring brilliant lyrics “I know you’re lying, I just can’t tell if it’s when you say you love me or when you say I wish you’d go hell.”
Immediately grabbing hold of you Into The Truth has a buzzy bass line and flourish of keys. The distortion on the vocals provides interest against the regularity of the bass. This is an intense track filled with muscular hooks, grinding bass and thunderous drums. King Hooker is another huge track delivering immense power from the driving bass. With lyrics about “The oldest profession” resonate with the surly guitar, but still with space for each instrument to have its time to shine.
Featuring the movement of fingers on the guitar strings Right in Front of Me is laid bare, allowing us to hear the richness of the vocals whilst in the background you can sense that something dark is about to happen. It has an eerie feel with the vocals showing a depth of emotion that is soulful and aching. It is a heartbreakingly beautiful track that has a real melancholy feel.
WP2 absolutely delivers from where the first album left off, sultry and packed full of drama with a passion that entices you in. Taking you firstly by the hand, then moves on to a passionate embrace from which you will not want to be released. It is both brooding and intense and also delivers humour. The superb lyrics really tell a story with each track and help to build a really cohesive and compelling album. Then you add in the music integrity of the band and it is a powerhouse that is rich and full.
Walking Papers Press Release and commentary on the band from Jefferson Angell
The true secret sauce of Walking Papers lies within the push-pull collaborative connection between Angell and drummer Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees, Mad Season, and 2017 Latin Grammy producer nominee). “Barrett and I sometimes come at things from different directions,” Angell admits. “There’s some creative tension, sure, but the music benefits from it. If you have an idea and you’re not willing to fight for it, then maybe it’s not that good of an idea in the first place. In our band, everybody has a lot of good ideas that we’re all willing to fight for. Sometimes it’s painful, but at the end of the day, we all feel really good about what we’ve accomplished together.”
Standing one’s ground while in the studio leads to ultimately better song results. “People aren’t shy in this band about letting the others know their opinions, that’s for sure — but that’s also why I think the music we all came up with here is that good,” Angell continues. “There’s a lot of collaboration on the album, but not a lot of compromise. If it’s art, it should reflect a vision that’s taken as far as it can be in order to satisfy that vision. For a song to have made it to the final album, it had to pass a pretty rigid test from the other three people in the band to get there.”
Of course, having a low-end impresario like Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver) handling the bass duties doesn’t hurt either. “He’s got so much going on with his other legendary successes that he certainly didn’t have to keep working with us,” Angell concedes. “But I think our grassroots approach inspired him, and reminded him why he got into playing rock ‘n’ roll in the first place. And that in turn inspired us to up our game and keep coming up with better and better material. It’s because of all those things that I think we created something here that’s really special. In a way, I feel like divine intervention stepped in, rather than it being just my personal creation.”
Angell also has a deep respect for keyboardist Benjamin Anderson. “Ben is like the George Harrison of the band,” he clarifies. “He won’t bring in 15 separate ideas, but the ones he does present to us really stand out. He’s an incredible, thoughtful musician.”
The vocalist/guitarist says he’s much more interested in harnessing the impact a fully realized album can have on listeners. “Music is a linear artform, but nowadays, there are those people who just want to come up with that quick fix — and that level of desperation is a repulsive cologne,” Angell observes. “They’re trying so hard to cram everything into those first 30 seconds to get people’s attention, but I think something gets lost at that point. It’s more repellant than it is an invitation. I definitely feel pressured by that sometimes, but I also feel music needs time to spread out and be what it wants to be. The music we’re making is for people who want to take the time to get into a record and give it the time it needs to percolate. We’re not about delivering high-fructose content to chase after those short-term radio hits that ultimately just disappear.”
Angell is willing to acknowledge that sometimes, when you’re in the business of making music, “good enough” is, well, not good enough. “As artists, you should be trying to create new things, and once you do that, you want to move on and try something else,” the songwriter notes. “If you’re merely re-creating something, then you’re just turning out a product. And that’s not what we do.”
Drummer Barrett Martin adds, “This new Walking Papers album reflects the three years we spent on the road throughout Europe, North America, and Australia. It shows a band that has played a couple hundred shows together, and perhaps more importantly, it shows the evolution of our songwriting and arranging skills. Although we’re still rooted in the blues, soul, and classic rock, this album show a lot more musical diversity and exploration in how our songs are recorded and delivered to our audience.”
Forging their creative energy into something new is one of Walking Papers’ ultimate goals. “We’re all standing on the shoulders of giants in some ways,” Angell concludes, “but I feel the songs on WP2 live in their own world.” And just what does that world sound like? “That world sounds very much like Walking Papers. The songs define a sound of their own. If you’re not taking your music to a new place or bringing people directly to the source, then why bother?” Truer words, as the saying goes. With WP2, Walking Papers have inked an indelible sonic contract that guarantees your ears will gladly come back for more.