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Papa Roach

To be loved, or, indeed… hated, the marmite-effect of US nu-metallists PAPA ROACH is insurmountable. Pitched against the likes of rivals LIMP BIZKIT, LINKIN PARK, GODSMACK and their ilk, unflinching frontman Jacoby Shaddix and Co have shouted and screamo’d to the lower regions of metal’s premier league, although relegation looks inevitable without an intravenous injection to bolster their retro-styled rock. Still, with two decades in the business and a handful of Top 10 albums, including post-millennium breakthrough set, “Infest” (plus spawned UK hits, `Last Resort’ and `Between Angels And Insects’), these rapping ‘Roach pests looked to be locked in for the long haul, despite being served notice by non-metalheads some time ago.
Formed January 1993 in Vacaville, North California, schoolmates Jacoby Shaddix (brief aka Coby Dick), drummer Dave Buckner, bassist Will James and trombonist Ben Luther, entered the combo for an attempt at winning their school’s annual talent contest; unsuccessful, they chose to bring in outsider Jerry Horton (lead guitar/vocals) to superseded Luther. Taking inspiration for their moniker from Jacoby’s step-grandfather, Howard Roatch (aka Papa Roach), and influenced by Bay Area mavericks such as FAITH NO MORE and PRIMUS, the band set out playing a funk/hip-hop hybrid, while rapidly building up a loyal local following. Making a tentative start to their recording career, the quartet unleashed a cassette-EP, `Potatoes For Christmas’, toward the fall of ’94, albeit without art student Buckner; a temp was found by way of Ryan Brown. A cassette-single, `Caca Bonita’ was distributed to fans at their gigs.
In ‘96, with Buckner back at the helm, and Will replaced by the band’s ambitious teenage roadie, Tobin Esperance, the lads cut their debut set, OLD FRIENDS FROM YOUNG YEARS (1997) {*6} on a miniscule budget. Play-listed by many local radio stations, the record – released on their own Onion Hardcore Recordings imprint – was instrumental in raising PAPA ROACH’s profile, and before long the Californian upstarts were playing on the same bill as SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, HUMAN WASTE PROJECT, WILL HAVEN, et al. 1998’s `5 Tracks Deep’ EP, sharpened their rap-metal chops and paved the way for a major label deal with Dreamworks. Their 7-year-itch was now over.
The Hollywood-based label released the INFEST {*7} album in 2000, a record that crept unannounced into the Top 20, and finally established PAPA ROACH as major league contenders alongside KORN, LIMP BIZKIT and DEFTONES. Reliable if not exactly innovative exponents of the increasingly over subscribed nu-metal agenda, P-Roach – as their fans know and love them – could now safely regard themselves as fully paid up members of America’s new rock establishment. As popular in Britain as they were in their homeland, not everyone was impressed, not least the music press. The multi-million seller spread its infectious angst around the globe, with its aforesaid hits, plus `Broken Home’ and the 9-minute schizoid medley (first half-only) `Thrown Away’, the underestimated showpieces.
Bolstered by transatlantic smash, `She Loves Me Not’, LOVEHATETRAGEDY (2002) {*7} found the ‘Roach crew largely laying off the more groove based elements of their sound in favour of a more straight up alt-metal approach, although lyrically Shaddix was as reliably despondent as ever; best examples: `Time And Time Again’, `M-80 (Explosive Energy Movement)’ and the finale title track.
The transformation from nu-metal to mid-00s metallists was completed by GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER (2004) {*6}, a flailing set of straight-down-the-line corporate angst dovetailing nicely with the currently fashionable emo scene, as heard on Top 20 single, `Scars’. The bug-eyed album itself – complete with gratuitously tasteless cover art – also cracked the Top 20 (Top 30 in the UK). A tight sound all-round, the title track minor hit, plus the hook-line and catchy `Not Listening’ were worth lending an ear.
With mixed reviews once again blighting proposed sales, album number five THE PARAMOUR SESSIONS (2006) {*6} – completed at the Paramour Mansion in California – was both formulaic and anthemic. Sounding as if trying to re-create L.A. hair-metal of the 80s (MOTLEY CRUE, RATT, et al), the shadowy Shaddix and his pests from the West (Coast) dished out posturing pleasers: `…To Be Loved’, `The World Around You’, `What Do You Do?’ and `Roses On My Grave’.
A seasoned campaigner from punk-rockers PULLEY and post-grunge-sters UNWRITTEN LAW, drummer Tony Palermo took the vacant stool of Buckner, who’d booked into a rehab centre. METAMORPHOSIS (2009) {*4} was more of the same punishing grimy metal frowned upon by the uninitiated, loved by fashionista metallers, into image, rather than creativity. PAPA ROACH were the Jonas Brothers-meets-MELLENCAMP of metal, willing to just plod along on tracks such as `I Almost Told You That I Love You’, the bloodletting `Hollywood Whore’ and the opener, `Lifeline’.
And just as one thought it was safe to go back into the kitchen, PAPA ROACH were jumping out from the crevices to rock on their seventh set, THE CONNECTION (2012) {*4}. Produced by SIXX: A.M. frontman James Michael and GOLDFINGER’s John Feldman, the record sold relatively poorly for new masters Eleven Seven Music; only Shaddix it seemed unaware that his ‘Roach team were being sprayed pelters by the media. Still, on the bright side, there were a few decent songs in `Still Swingin’’ and `Before I Die’; the latter straight from the heart of the troubled Jacoby on his indecision not to commit suicide.
Nine studio sets in, a further kitchen-sink-drama infestation came by way of F.E.A.R. (2015) {*6} – the opening `Face Everything And Rise’ gave a clue to its acronym. Playing down the intensities of Jacoby’s hip hop recitals (highlight `Gravity’ featured IN THIS MOMENT’s Maria Brink), hard-hitting nu-metal was again the order of the day here. Co-produced by Kevin Churko and his protégé son Kane, the angst-y and apocalyptic Top 20 set blasted its guns from the rooftops on fist-pumping sing-along songs `Broken As Me’, `Devil’ and `Warriors’ (the latter featuring rapper Royce Da 5’9”).
If Papa (Roach) was a Rolling Stone (song), they’d be “Jumpin’ Jack Smashed”; a corny connection – true, but in these more amiable days of in-yer-face hip-hop and/or “Rage Against The Machine-gun” rap-rock, the skewered CROOKED TEETH (2017) {*6} was hardly an album pulling out all the stops – just incisors! Denting the Top 20 on both sides of the Atlantic, producers Nicholas “Ras” Furlong and Colin Brittain somehow managed to spike the sparkle that had once characterised the hard-edged Shaddix and Co. There were guest spots for rapper MACHINE GUN KELLY (on the angst-addled `Sunrise Trailer Park’) and the talented SKYLAR GREY (on the brooding `Periscope’), however, the buoyancy of the title track, `My Medication’ and `American Dreams’, made it all seem worthwhile.
If RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE had their time again on Planet Pop, and could chill out with ALIEN ANT FARM in a manufactured pop-metal/rap combo, then their sound might equal that of PAPA ROACH. Shaddix, Horton, Esperance and Palermo had gambled and lost nearly everything in a delusional, ill-advised Russian roulette game of chance. But for the minute-long hardcore-punk workout, `I Suffer Well’ (throw in possibly `Renegade Music’), 2019’s emotive WHO DO YOU TRUST? {*6} would’ve been a prime example of selling out their brand of manic metal for Plasticine pop. If proof be needed, this 11th album reached only No.73 on home-soil (Top 40 in Britain).
© MC Strong 2002-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Sep2013-Jun2019

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