Wallpaper On The Chewing Gum Ground

[K; 2008]

Styles: rock ‘n’ roll
Others: Ramones, The Kinks, The Vaselines

At first glance, it’d be easy to toss On The Chewing Gum Ground, and Wallpaper, the band responsible for it, into a pile with all the other non-pretentious, “it’s just rock ‘n’ roll” bands to enter the ears of the post-Beatles listening public. But that wouldn't be quite right. The usual touchstones are scattered here and there: a little Ramones sneer, a Who swagger, a Kinks jangle, a Kingsmen howl. And, seeing as this is a K Records release, there’s just a touch of twee-pop’s starry-eyed earnestness — see “Pop Rocket” and its sock-hop chant-along for proof.

But despite its influences, worn as visibly as a t-shirt, Wallpaper has a level of cheeky self-awareness that makes a route dismissal of the band as “good old-fashioned rock music” miss the mark. The verses in “Pop Rocket” alone name drop Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, Bob Dylan, and John Lennon as apparitions appearing in dreams. It’s as if by checking names off the list, Wallpaper is asserting its place among these heroes — or at least among their most ardent fans. Indeed, it often feels as though Wallpaper (like many of its potential fans, perhaps) wouldn’t mind being judged by its record collection. Still, it’s hard to say Wallpaper is merely a band playing the music its members want to hear, with nary a care of others’ opinions — basically, it’s hard to brush them off with a halfhearted, euphemistic description that functionally just calls the music boring.

The introduction of keyboard textures on “New California” and “Auto Bop” prevent the guitar pop formula from getting too overbearing, in the same way that elliptical songs like “New California” offset the artifice-as-art of referential cuts like “Pop Rocket” and “Rock & Roll World” (which references “Ringo, George, and John and Paul” right off the bat). As a whole, On The Chewing Gum Ground feels less like a replication or amalgamation of past sounds, and more like a continuation of them.

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