Paris Falls, Volume III
I think Volume III works best when viewed as part of a bigger whole, right alongside Paris Falls’ previous efforts, Vol. 1 and Vol. II. Going by the band’s choice of titles for the three albums so far, it sure seems like they intended there to be some kind of progression, and even if they didn’t, well, the theme definitely fits when Volume III rolls into view.
Looking back at the first disc of the trilogy, Paris Falls seems like an a much angrier, more bitter band, with guitarist/singer Ray Brown snarling and spitting venom as much as singing. The followup, Vol. II, headed tentatively down a somewhat more low-key road, trading bitterness and attitude for thoughtful depression; while I definitely liked it, the album seemed uncertain, unsure of itself and where it was supposed to be headed. With Volume III, though, the band sounds like it’s gotten where it was going all along.
The sound here is still very similar to that on II, but with less out-and-out melancholy and more of a forward-facing outlook. Take “Obsolete,” for example; the song’s fairly straight-up pop-rock, with a nicely jangly, almost Elliott Smith-like melody, and while it’s resigned and down, to be sure, there’s still a hint of relief that at least something (whatever that something happens to be) is finally settled. There’re heavy, heavy nods to Floydian psych-rock here, definitely, as with II, but now it’s less the slit-your-wrists-and-bleed variety and more the it-all-ends-anyway-so-why-worry variety.
That comfortable feeling allows Paris Falls to both stretch out some, as on the drifting, woozy, seven-and-a-half-minute “Delay,” which is all shaky/shimmery guitars and David Gilmour vocals, and to head for sunnier territory, like they do on “Goodmorning,” which is louder and a lot more Beatlesque than most of what the band’s been doing lately. It’s also the best moment on Volume III, its quasi-psychedelic strummed guitars and roaring vocal melody reaching for the skies in a way Paris Falls rarely seems to since Vol. 1.
Of course, part of the reason Volume III shoves up so tightly against 1 and II is because of the band’s all-encompassing love of that warm, ’70s-sounding analog vibe. The band declares their allegiance in the very first bit of crackly, staticky record noise on the album (“Intro”), and even when things get strange, Volume III sounds like it was recorded live, straight to tape at some dingy dive on the wrong side of town.
To their credit, Paris Falls still steer clear of the whole revivalist thing. Regardless of the fact that Volume III does point backwards to a bunch of the standard “classic rock” benchmarks, the band doesn’t play like followers, not by a long shot; they play like they’ve absorbed all the old stuff and are making something new out of it, not just within its boundaries. Better still, the music here sounds a lot more deliberate and interesting than the music made by a lot of similar bands.
So much of this sort of thing seems faddish, throwaway music that you’ll like the first time and then file away, but Paris Falls write songs that are smart and heartfelt and pained and that definitely don’t fade away after just one listen.