In 2011, Papa vs. Pretty released United in Isolation. It included unbelievably catchy rock anthems, like ‘Honey’, ‘One Of The Animals’ and ‘Darkest Way’. Comparisons were drawn to bands like Silverchair, Muse and Radiohead. Much of this was justified. The riffs were thundering, the falsetto was emotional and the lyrics thoughtful. The band even rocked live. They supported The Vines on an Australian tour. A new talent had arrived.
‘My Life Is Yours’ was the first glimpse of the band’s new material. The slow, melodic piece of nostalgia clearly demonstrated Thomas Rawle’s maturing as a songwriter. It even included a guitar solo, strings and a thought-provoking film clip (must watch). While the rest of the album takes similar queues, there are always pop hooks to keep you interested.
Perhaps the most poppy track on the album is ‘Suburban Joan of Arc’. The song serves as a good example of the 90s alternative rock sound that permeates throughout White Deer Park. ‘Rain Check’, ‘To Do’ and second single ‘Smother’ are other examples of this. All are rhythmic (often double time), melodic and have simple choruses. ‘To Do’ also offers some commentary on modern society.
While White Deer Park is slower, more subdued and has more backing vocals than United in Isolation; it is also more varied and diverse. ‘Let It Begin’ is a strong foray into sing-along balladry, but the last three songs are where this album really differs. ‘Roses After Dark’ explores the depths of sorrow; ‘While I’m Still Young’ builds slowly from country fingerpicking to pure distortion; and ‘Dementia Praecox’ is a grandiose beast of its own (Freddie Mercury-style). All are sure to garner even more comparisons to Daniel Johns. Think Diorama.
So where are the thundering Muse-like guitar riffs, reminiscent of ‘Honey’? One is buried three-and-a-half minutes into ‘To Do’. For the most part, this is not a guitar album. Instead, the focus is on songwriting. ‘Million Different Ways’ is one of the gems that shine as a result of a more melodic, less intrusive approach to the guitar parts on this album. If you are looking for a track that is similar to those on United in Isolation, ‘Whatever Works’ is probably your best bet.
Unfortunately, this album is not going to project a very talented band into the stratosphere. However, it is a well-rounded sophomore effort. See them when they come to Canberra next month and get your live fix.