Back in the 90’s, listening to rock music you didn’t have to look too hard to find any one of the plethora of talented, and more than not, musically groundbreaking bands hailing from Seattle. Since then from this side of the pond at least, the Seattle music scene seems to have been fairly quiet. So when two veterans of that scene get together with a raft of new songs, new music and stories to tell, it is well worth taking note.
Enter Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees, Mad Season) & Jeff Angell (Post Stardom Depression, The Missionary Position) who together with fellow Seattle native and ex Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan birthed The Walking Papers. Angell’s fellow Missionary Position co-conspirator Benjamin Anderson was also added to the line-up after providing some keys in the studio on what would become The Walking Papers self-titled debut album.
On first listen you quickly get that this is a very modern rock record of the highest quality, it’s style is not easily defined, but is pleasantly fresh and unexpected. Upon further listening you realise this also has real blues substance, infused with a healthy dose of Americana about modern life on the streets of the bands beloved Seattle; while the lyrical landscaping poetically invokes images of everyday people trying to irk out a living from those city streets set against a backdrop of grey skies and uncertainty.
‘The Whole World’s Watching” features a blistering solo from Martin’s Mad Season band-mate Mike McCready (Pearl Jam). It is certainly one of the more blues orientated tracks on offer, with a real ballsy opening riff and a certain swagger, it showcases a grittier side to Jeff Angell’s versatile vocal range. Martin’s drumming is always technically superb; it has subtle nuances littered throughout the record. He really thumps it along when he has too, but in this track it’s those little rhythmic subtleties that really stand out.
The optimistic sounding intro guitar lick on ‘Leave Me In The Dark’ is eventually joined by the rumbling rhythmic section of McKagan and Martin. This is perhaps the most upbeat sounding of all the tracks on offer and stands in contrast to most of the other songs on the record.
Another song of note is “Capital T” which has a great thick bluesy groove and Angell’s vocals sound just that little bit more passionate & angry as they sing ‘You’re trouble with a Capital T’.
The album on the whole has a haunting beauty about it, Benjamin Anderson’s keyboards add more than a few layers of atmosphere over an already well written set of songs. ‘The Butcher’ in particular exemplifies this; the guitar and drums are silent and are not missed as the Angell’s voice and Anderson’s keys set the scene.
As you would expect from this set of seasoned musicians, this is a well written collection of songs that are expertly delivered without exception. The feel of each track is matched perfectly to the individual stories told within the lyrics. There is a darkness and intensity in its delivery, it’s not all doom & gloom, but it has a starkness and depth of reality that is passionate and sometimes beautiful. Somewhere along their song-writing process they’ve made a conscious decision mix the blues with all the intensity and song craft of that famed Seattle sound of the 90’s. The result is a thoughtful modern-day, rock masterpiece, the songs have been well road tested with extensive touring in 2013 and it will be interesting to see where 2014 & beyond takes this particular set of musicians who collectively go by the name of Walking Papers.
1. The Whole World’s Watching
2. Your Secret’s Safe With Me
3. Red Envelopes
4. Leave Me In The Dark
5. The Butcher
6. Two Tickets
7. I’ll Stick Around
8. Capital T
9. A Place Like This
10. Independence Day
11. Already Dead (Kill Room)
12. Two Tickets And A Room (Kill Room)
13. Leave Me In The Dark (Orchestra)
14. The Whole World’s Watching (Moore Theater with Mike McCready)
Jeff Angell – Vocals
Barrett Martin – Drums, percussion, upright bass, keyboards, backing vocals
Benjamin Anderson – Keyboards, backing vocals
Duff MacKagan – Bass, backing vocals