Music Reviews

Paper Lions

The Symptom and the Sickness


The Symptom and the Sick is one of those records that will either irritate the hell out of the listener, or make the listener weep with glee. I am of the second camp, as Paper Lions take cues from Fugazi, Gang Of Four, and Superchunk, all bands I love dearly.

Paper Lions’ strength lies in their ability to find a strong rhythm and ride it out, as many of D.C.’s bands did during the 1990s. Comparisons to Jawbox/Burning Airlines are also warranted, but Paper Lions are quite up to that level, as they seem to still be finding out who they are, as a band. Songs like “Kinetic To Potential” are strikingly aggressive and angular, and recall images of Jawbox-era Jawbox. Strangely enough, following the chorus of this song, someone in the band plays a harmonica that follows the same melody as the guitar; this was a trick employed by Gang Of Four on their classic albums Entertainment! and Solid Gold, and the harmonica shows up several more times through out this album.

You could tell me that J. Robbins of Jawbox produced this record, and I’d fully believe it. The entire rhythm section has that J. Robbins sound to it (see Frame & Canvas by Braid for example). It is the vocals, however, that make this band unique to the slew of D.C. bands that appear to have influenced Paper Lions.

The lead singer’s voice is incredibly hard to pin down; I come up with comparisons to the lead singer of ’90s artcore band Polvo (the tall, skinny one), and that’s about as far as I can take it. He has a definite attitude in his delivery, and it gives the songs spunk and bite. I wouldn’t say that he can actually sing, but neither can Ian Svenonius, and he lives on his spunkiness.

So, my opinion of this is probably biased, as I love early Gang Of Four, and The Symptom and the Sickness sounds like a modern version of those records. Fans of Fugazi, Jawbox, Shudder To Think, Bluetip, and other bands of that sort with thoroughly enjoy this. These guys aren’t breaking down the doors of originality, but who cares. This is a rocker and booty shaker, so go for it!

Kindercore Records:

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