The press stuff that came with Paper Mill’s debut record was at great pains to tell you this so I’d best start with it.
PM’s founder member and guitarist Ben Sansom was in Lower Than Atlantis.
Whether this is good or bad, I honestly couldn’t tell you, because beyond knowing the name I am not sure I’ve ever heard them.
This means, if I may put it like this: We are in Danny Worsnop territory here. That is to say, when his debut album came to the inbox, I had not a clue who Asking Alexandria were.
It might be a good thing, after all, I am not clouded by any expectations. Whatever, that’s the situation we are in.
The reason for levelling with you first off is simple. “Beyond The West Way” is superb.
Ben, vocalist Matt Rider, and bassist Luke Sansom have constructed something a bit special here. Broadly speaking – this is what would happen if Gaslight Anthem, Anti-Flag and Frank Turner (who is a fan) got together to hammer out a few tunes.
A thunderous opening ushers in “Bruce”, with its political message: “is this the world you were dreaming of, you wanna give your children?” is a stark line, and the reason for it being called “Bruce”? Well, nobody wins unless we all win, will do you. See, I don’t know LTA but I know my Springsteen….
Quite simply, with this wonderful modern punk. “Get Real” has a small town summer nights, Hold Steady-ish vibe, and as I am writing this on the same type of warm June night that they are singing about, there’s a nice synergy.
“Den’s In Your Frontroom” continues the reflective lyrics, but there’s a working class feel here too – and if because it mentioned “West Way” I was looking to avoid the obvious Clash references, its kind of impossible as it seems hewn from the same raw materials.
Although this is only an EP, there is plenty of depth here, plenty of colours. “Lock And Key” comes from a different world to me, lyrically at least, but as a document of the lives of many it stands right up there – it is also quieter, a touch more “indie” if you will. There’s a crossover potential here for sure.
It’s balanced superbly by the Jimmy Eat World type rhythms and hooks of “Black Mirror” and Ben is clearly an extremely talented guitarist. He proves it throughout, but especially here.
The sixth and final one is close to being the best. “Standing On The Edge” spits its lyrics, the guitars screech, but my goodness there is a melody. It seems to exemplify a crossroads, “I am standing on the edge, of my past and present tense”. In a way that line seems to sum up the album. This is a fresh start, this is more than the present, this is the future.
From the West Way, to the world? Maybe. But “Past The West Way” is a fabulous start.