After watching a VHS copy of The Matrix and getting stuck behind someone with a Gore / Lieberman bumper sticker, I was further thrown into an existential crisis when I flipped on the radio of my Saturn SL2 and heard a #1 hit by Papa Roach. Then, I heard another.
To be fair, Papa Roach has been far from inactive over the past eighteen years. In recent years, they’ve been seeing a resurgence in commercial success. However, when a band comes out of the gate with a #1 hit on their first album, like Papa Roach did with Last Resort in 2000, it’s easy to associate the artist with that time in history. After all, it was nine years before their next chart topper, Lifeline. For me, that was radio silence during most of junior high, all of highschool, and almost four years of college before Papa Roach hit the top again.
Even during those times of renewed success, it wasn’t at the level that Last Resort hit during the Nu Metal uprising. You couldn’t go to an event without hearing that song; it was, essentially, what Black Hole Sun is to frat parties. Now, we’re seeing Papa Roach climb back up to the top in a glorious fashion, and we shouldn’t be surprised.
Help, the first #1 hit off of their latest album, Crooked Teeth, rests comfortably in the Nu-Metal niche. Guitars, hard vocals, you know the routine. Well, it’s as “routine” as the cleaning your dentist promises. The punk-like angst of yesteryear’s nu-metal has somber overtones, and more than a pinch of self-reflection. It adds more depth to the style, which resonates with their now-adult fanbase.
Born for Greatness, the second chart topper off Crooked Teeth, has clear elements from current top-40 style songs, including the more popular sub genres of techno. It’s a hard rock song easily catered to a warehouse full of ravers: with a few electronic beats and an overall feeling of communal excellence. That seems to resonate strongly with teenagers rolling on molly; it’s all about “us” and “the colors on your shirt.”
What this outlines, is a new era in the maturity of Papa Roach. Not to imply that they were immature before, like Blink 182 (for the record, I love Blink 182. Even when they were twenty-three, I loved them.) It’s simply a new era in their progression as artists. This blending of old and new, along with the retrospect of life experience, is a fairly common point of commercial success for a band. The aforementioned Blink 182 had a similar comeback last year, and even juggernaut rock bands like Metallica and Iron Maiden saw significantly greater commercial success in the new millenium, despite less critical acclaim. Is this simply the difference between a twenty-something musician and a forty-something musician, or rather a sign of changes in the industry as a whole?
I, personally, believe it’s the former. Would Michelangelo have painted the Sistine Chapel back during his early years? No. He was way too punk rock in 1497. The moral is that twenty years of life changes the way you view it, and not just because you witnessed the rise and fall of Blockbuster. Papa Roach is hitting a point in their careers that many artists have in the past, and with that comes a new approach to music and success.
If you’re one of the millions of thirty-somethings with a dusty, physical copy of Infest or Lovehatetragedy stashed next to your hand-me-down PalmPilot, it’s not a bad idea to check out Papa Roach’s new stride in Crooked Teeth.