Ambition is somewhat underrated these days.
All too often, bands are quite content to play a few shows here and there while constantly flooding social media with their Spotify links. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But whenever a band comes along and are aiming for much loftier heights, it puts things in perspective.
Forming in 2018, Paper Tigers quickly made a name for themselves on the local scene through their indie gone glam-pop presentation and music that seemed to weld alternative rock and pop together in a way that didn’t favour one or the other. As a result, this debut EP comes with high expectations.
The band themselves describe the record as “…one of how internal and external forces impinge upon your world and your psyche to make you feel graceless. This takes many forms from looking for happiness in the wrong places…to battling an omnipresent internal monologue…or even a partner… The EP became a lightning rod for this torrent of intense emotion and in doing so served as a vehicle of catharsis…there is no redemptive state, no resolution to questions thrown back while staring into the mirror, it’s a scream that isn’t heard but a scream that’s intoned together.” Make no mistake, Paper Tigers are reaching for the stars, and so they should.
Opening song ‘Omission’ feels like an immediate indie club favourite with its bass lick and atmospheric guitar, while the vocal gymnastics inspire euphoria. ‘Blue Light Trails’ is the kind of widescreen, windswept anthem where the lyrics tell a different story to the music and the contrast is life-affirming. ‘Graceless’ tricks the listener into thinking that a meaty, hard rock song is impending before the tempo slows down and we get a mid-tempo, introspective number. ‘Hush’ operates in strange terrain, where the angular riff is contrasted with the booming vocals, while ‘Moloko’ closes the EP with nods to post-punk and has a flighty feel of escape to it due to the backing vocals injecting some serenity into the madness.
Musically, each tune sounds stadium level. The bright production captures each individual performance and never overpowers any other member. Norton’s vocals soar, Smyth’s riffs have the right balance of sharp weirdness and poppy exuberance, Rose’s bass drives the music and Milner drums with precision but allows room for a groove.
Welcome to the arena Paper Tigers.