The Paper Chase Now You Are One Of Us

[Kill Rock Stars; 2006]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: noise-pop, horror music
Others: Xiu Xiu, The Planet The

The 2001 Korean film Sorum profoundly disturbs. Victims don't fall prey to a madman whose intentions come from the fact that "he's crazy." Rather, it is a world where ghosts wait patiently to take revenge for acts long forgotten, romantic love snaps instantly into a murderous fear of betrayal, and a mother's love for her child can turn into possessiveness that she will burn down a building full of people to maintain.

The distinction between Sorum and, say, slasher films is important when considering The Paper Chase. On Now You Are One Of Us, the band possesses many elements one might think of as emo ”” melodramatic lyrics, overwrought vocals, and bombastic songwriting ”” but obvious similarities do not make it the same thing. Unless, of course, you can look me straight in the eye and tell me that I Know What You Did Last Summer and Sorum are pretty much the same kind of movie.

Horror hasn't been chosen arbitrarily either. The Paper Chase's music makes some of the best sounds for horror since "Red Right Hand." Furthermore, it is music that doesn't come from an idealized world that's been corrupted by a bad break-up, but rather from a disturbing world where our heroes are looking for hope but face betrayal at every turn. The primary culprits in this lyrical world are myths that tell us that everything is fine, denying the dark side of emotions like love, as well as ghosts that won't go away unless the unseemly consequences of actions are truly dealt with. As a result, our narrator (singer, John Congleton) is sometimes a stalker, a sadist, a masochist, and interestingly obsessed with fairytales, where "good" triumphs in a horribly brutal fashion.

Fittingly, the music is paranoid and claustrophobic. Dissonant strings twist and turn behind beautiful vocal melodies. The rhythm section is unexpectedly, but appropriately, funky, even when it rubs up against horror organs and ranting vocal samples. Great care has come in assembling the album, featuring specific sounds and recurring melodies. That great care doesn't keep the proceedings from sounding like they are about to spin out of control at any moment, but it is always able to just-barely hold on.

This isn't to say the album is perfect. Just like how a horror movie needs to suspend the disbelief of the viewer, this sort of album also needs to constantly keep the listener hooked. From time to time, though, the performance of the band and the singer just become too much for me to be convinced. Furthermore, the album is comprised of a little too much darkness and depravity to take in a single sitting. While imperfect, Now You Are One Of Us is packed with poignant ideas and disturbingly beautiful moments.

1. It's Out There and It's Gonna Get You
2. We Know Where You Sleep
3. The Kids Will Grow Up To Be Assholes
4. Wait Until I Get My Hands On You
5. You Will Never Take Me Alive
6. Delivered In a Firm Unyielding Way Lingering For Just a Bit Too Long To Communicate The Message "I Own You"
7. The Most Important Part Of Your Body
8. What's So Amazing About Grace
9. You're One of Them Aren't You
10. The Song Will Eat Itself
11. ...And All The Candy You Can Eat
12. All The Manner of Pox or Canker
13. At The Other End of the Leash
14. We Will Make You One Of Us
15. The House is Alive and The House is Angry