Brace Yourself: Papa Roach’s ‘Crooked Teeth’
Adam Flores | Senior Writer
Written and recorded deep in the trenches of a cramped North Hollywood studio, Papa Roach present “Crooked Teeth,” their ninth studio album in a nearly 25-year career. The 10-track mix finds the Vacaville, California, quartet revisiting their rap-rock roots while also continuing to challenge themselves musically as well as their audience.
“I think looking at the landscape of rock music right now, we just kind of felt like we were getting too much lumped into the pack. Not that we sound just like every other band, but we just felt like rock has become, for us, just a little bit homogenized. And we were, like, ‘All right, we need to break out of this box and do something different,'” Papa Roach frontman, Jacoby Shaddix, said in a recent interview.
Leaving the pack and doing something different sets this album apart from the rest in the genre. Released on May 19, the new record is an amalgamation of straight-ahead, in-your-face alternative, hard, and rap-rock, aggro- and alt-metal elements. Tracks such as “Help” outline clean, catchy and perhaps radio-friendly rock hooks, while the darker “My Medication” switches into Korn-dystopic urgency.
The group first mentioned they began work on a new album back in January 2016 and as a result of their efforts, released the first, eponymous single on Nov. 1, 2016. Subsequent singles “Help” (released in early 2017), “Born for Greatness” and “Periscope (feat. Skylar Grey)” (both released in late March) and “American Dreams” (released in late April) opened the floodgates in priming fans for the current compilation and also in support of their current world tour.
As one of the most consistent and durable outfits rock music has to offer, Papa Roach continually challenge and cross the genre-defining borders of rock and metal. “Crooked Teeth” infuses hard-driving drums, chest-pounding bass tone and cataclysmic guitars along with driving synths and electronic beats as heard on the opener, “Break the Fall,” à la Evanescence’s “Going Under.”
Shaddix’s vocal howls grace the record with simple melodic forms and straightforward messages on going through hell, the current state of our world condition and tragic loss and heartbreak. On the surface, themes are based on socio-political elements without being ostensibly political. The underlying premise are the allusions of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as heard within the chorus of the album’s title track:
“Terrified, paralyzed / Something’s got a hold on me / Let me go, I can’t speak / I’m choking on my crooked teeth / Wake me up if I sleep / Cause I’m haunted by my dreams / Crying out, but I can’t speak / Cause I’m choking on my, choking on my / Crooked teeth / My crooked teeth.”
Shaddix admits “Crooked Teeth’s” intention was for war veterans, reflecting their struggle in returning along with PTSD’s intrusion on loved ones.” Within “American Dream,” the frontman raps, “It feels like, American Dreams caught on fire / We’re tearing down the white picket fences / A soldier bleeds, and a soldier dies / Have you ever thought that war was a sickness,” asserting flaws in our American Dream ideology.
Papa Roach enlisted the vocal services of Skylar Grey on the melancholic ballad “Periscope” offering a well-defined vocal color and lyrical ambiance within the set. Another collaboration came in the way of Machine Gun Kelly who offered his rap skills on what can appear to be the most tragedy-based story, “Sunrise Trailer Park.”
Production comes in the way of the Furlong/Brittain team, responsible for the successes of Maroon 5 and Demi Lovato. As fans growing up on Papa Roach’s triple-platinum “Infest” (2000), Nicolas “RAS” Furlong and Colin Brittain challenged Papa Roach to jump outside the box.
“Cause we know what we can do, but they encouraged us to get weird, and we ‘wanted’ to get weird. So we got weird,” Shaddix said.
“Crooked Teeth” is offered as a 10-track CD collective spanning 33-plus minutes. Papa Roach also offers a deluxe set that includes three bonus studio tracks: “Ricochet,” “Nothing” and “Bleeding Through.” A second CD contains a generous helping of 16 tracks recorded live at The Fillmore Detroit.
The album is a solid set of tracks perusing the sociopolitical realm in collusion with addressing the horrors of PTSD. Papa Roach offer another fun, anthemic rock ride and though it may not sit as their best work, it stands strong, perhaps as a bridge to what the future holds for the bastions of nü-metal.