19 Nov 2014
Album Review: The Paperhead "Africa Avenue"
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
I'm generally a pretty patient person, but the wait since this Nashville group's previous release - 2012's "Pictures of her Demise" 7" (also on Trouble in Mind) has seemed interminable. The consistent bouts of excellence they'd previously unleashed upon us made it all too easy to forget that this very accomplished band are of an age where they've had other, equally pressing concerns - namely school.
Now that they've found their way into their twenties, they're back on the streets with "Africa Avenue", and the wait has been worth every second. Often compared to their peers the Sufis, the Paperhead are very much the Syd Barrett to the Sufis' Lennon/McCartney. And while a Barrett influence is not necessarily novel in and of itself, these lads are of the much harder to grasp early Floyd Barrett school, rather than the more often evoked, acid-addled, tortured genius of later years. Which means that if you love the quirky psych-pop of "See Emily Play" and "Arnold Layne", you're in for one hell of a ride here.
The Paperhead (are they still the Paperhead, or just Paperhead now?) are far from derivative though. They've spread their wings here to exponentially assimilate more influences than ever before, ranging from Krautrock rhythms to infectious, vintage pop-punk. Heck, "Mother May" even delves into an impeccable piece of Laurel Canyon country-pop with a weeping steel guitar of positively Garcia-esque proportions.
Most importantly though, the songs are impeccable examples of immediately memorable, hooky pop genius, which don't need to sacrifice their inherent quirkiness to achieve universal appeal. Tracks like "Eye For Eye" demonstrate a consistent grasp of the sort of lysergic pop craft that bands of the original freakbeat era could only sporadically capture on tracks like "My Friend Jack", which are now seen as classics of not only the genre, but the era itself. So naturally, given the opportunity, you're going to want to get in on a whole album of that.
"Africa Avenue" is certainly the Paperhead's hookiest, most direct release to date, channeling the sonic adventurousness that occasionally manifested in a slightly more challenging fashion on previous releases into immediately engaging and appealing psych-pop songs that are both comfortingly familiar and thrillingly unpredictable.
Quite probably the most fun and delightful release of the year.
"Africa Avenue" is available here, or directly from Trouble in Mind Records.