ORGAN EYES: CHASING PAPER
There is an inherent sense of listless, teenage rebellion that runs through Chasing Paper. The tracks are aggressive but throb with a soft, sensitive, juvenile center. Like no other band from recent memory, here, Organ Eyes captures the feeling of tripping through late adolescence into young adulthood with splinters of jollity and sharp, panging angst.
Chasing Paper is evidently rooted in sounds from the 80s. Lead vocalist Cameron Steacy’s affinity for catchy, plainspoken lines with occasional stylistic nods to Black Francis or Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes, and the flat, leisurely vocals and tight knit guitar style of John Lennon off The White Album. Bathed in a modern era mist, the album jaunts through an 80s era catalogue, deconstructing each genre and subgenre of the musically complex, iconic decade.
Amid the album’s subtle, psychedelic undercurrents, which wrestle with the pulls of aggression, anxiety, spontaneity, and pleasance, Chasing Paper, undoubtedly the band’s strongest release to date, conveys the kind of restless tension that comes with growing up and getting by.
Organ Eyes (currently consisting of vocalist Cameron Steacy, Sam Pippa on the synthesizers, and John Bennett on drums) have previously shown that they know their way around an evocative song as evidenced on some of their earlier releases, which showcase more easy-going, psychedelic, noise rock. Comparatively, Chasing Paper, bursts with subdued colour and possesses tighter, melodic range. The first track of their 33-minute full length, “Mike Myers,” is a lyrically playful jaunt. Organ Eyes infuse a clever melody with strands of humour whilst chugging through youthful ennui amid filtered, blunt guitar riffs.
There’s a much greater emphasis on mood, melody, and atmospheric detail on this album. “Chums,” the vertigo-inducing, off-kilter track, is the epitome of this. At times recalling American alt-rock heroes, the Pixies, the song features a nonchalantly cool bassline that conveniently snaps shut on the line, “with a knife in my back,” (fitting for a song about chums) as Steacy’s vocals trill off into filtered guitar and highly distorted fuzz tone sounds. The jerky, wah-wah of the guitars move the song along down a meandering and disorienting stream of unconsciousness.
“Cocoon” is a mini-voyage into post-punk. The full-bodied, energetic ripper, cuts with true punk rock grit and guitar licks, punctuated further by the lurch of the Sonic Youth-sounding bassline intro. The fuzzy amp effect and small, lo-fi delay, sounds as if Steacy is singing (more so, screaming) out of a megaphone whilst performing in a small room before a pit of brazen, thrashing youths.
The sole soul of Chasing Paper is the transient, lush centerpiece “Trap Car,” a George Harrison-esque (by way of Ravi Shankar) four-minute, drug-induced haze. The silvery guitars lend themselves well to the throbbing drone of Steacy’s unapologetically glum, distant vocals. The skewed, occasional chimes of what sounds like a sitar being plucked and effervescent synth soaked in reverb, or really processed guitar, bleeds nostalgia. But through all of the embellishments is a metaphorical, heartening romance. Here, Steacy likens the subject of his love to that of a trap car. Without being certain what a trap car necessarily means to Steacy, we are certain of the sentiment behind it and the feeling and plausible pain loaded into every lethargic, unconfident, and foreboding utterance of “trap car.”
The album’s final track, the sarcastically cheerful lope “Nothing,” plunges into a twee, John Lennon-tinted daydream. The juxtaposition of the record is not lost here. Steacy sings jollily about having nothing, as if he is celebrating it or merely accepting it. “I get nothing. Nothing at all...I put in the hours but it’s all a rainfall,” he sings. “Life is painful.” In listening deeper, the soft jingle, characterized by winding guitar melodies, inherently feels like acceptance through melancholy as well as the end of something; perhaps a chapter of one’s life.
“Chasing Paper,” whose name derives from the album’s title track, seemingly honours the brute virtuosity it takes to “get by.” “We’re all chasing paper—and it doesn't matter,” Steacy sings. The all killer no filler, loose concept album is like a stoner’s ballad to the working class. It’s the quiet, lowkey, anxious transition between summer and fall; the lifelong dichotomy between freedom and responsibility; the essential essence of figuring out life and living it; it’s the reality of chasing dreams but ultimately chasing paper—paper being money, and in the pursuit of chasing paper, some must also face the prospect of letting go and letting dreams die. In the pursuit of the chase (whether it be love or money, or both) something is always lost. Chasing Paper is a masterful, sonically cinematographic exploration on the art of getting by, and it does so through a conspicuous, 1980s lens.