John Congleton, the axis of the pAper chAse universe, has garnered a bit of a reputation as a psychotic religious zealot, damning the world around him in a flurry of pulpit-smashing bass and splintered guitars. Closer inspection reveals his religious implications to be a far more personal affair -- a painful mix of self-loathing and hypocrisy, the latter of which is aimed squarely at America's notoriously overzealous religious right. Congleton's fervor, then, is something akin to exorcism through song -- a deep, disturbing practice that sends the demons that rule his thoughts back from whence they came. It's a brutal process, but fortunately, all we have to do is sit back and watch the blood hit the wall.
Much the same as simpatico cohorts/collaborators 90 Day Men, the pAper chAse have always deserved a wider audience upon which to inflict their technophobic nightmares, and with any luck their jump to Kill Rock Stars will facilitate their infection of the mass populace. In a year that has produced little in the way of superlative fare, God Bless Your Black Heart is an impressive statement -- a grandiloquent treatise on the current sorry state of the nation, religion and humanity. It's a torrent of venom and pestilence, but then again, so is flipping on CNN or reading the front page of the Post.
The music is almost as confusing as their message, with lifted samples, bone-rattling bass and Congleton's tyrannical testifyin' taking center stage. He's been refining his cut-and-paste psychosis since Young Bodies Heal Quickly, You Know, and it has reached its bold apex here; his studio wizardry shows in the bolder array of sounds he's plundered and the crispness with which they're delivered, while his improved songwriting shines through in bolder arrangements and a tighter instrumental focus. Opener "Said the Spider to the Fly" is part sermon, part sin, while the aptly titled "Your Ankles to Your Earlobes" is awash with notions of harlequin romanticism. "Now You're Gonna Get It" and "Abby, You're Going to Burn for What You did to Me" are soulfully vituperative as only Congleton could be, damning ex-loves through a proclamation that "I'll see your head up a pole". Not a totally different sound, then, but one that's in line with the newfound fury of his convictions.
Congleton isn't one to forgive and forget, as the tumult of his reoccurring "black heart" shows, and he's been a victim of love like the rest of us. However, when he tells us that "I'd sell out everything if I could find such peace", the depth of his struggle becomes apparent.