After five years, they’re back for round two 

MV saw Walking Papers a couple of times on their first go around. One of them particularly sticks in the mind. Opening for Alice In Chains, going on ridiculously early at the start of a three-band bill, after they finished, we looked over our vantage point on the balcony to see the band’s bassist signing autographs without a care in the world.

Nothing too unusual in that except for the fact that said four-stringer is Duff McKagan, who also plays the bass in the biggest rock band in the world (no more clues). The inference in all of this was that this was about fun, a return to the grass-roots if you like.

There was more to it, than that. In fact – with the greatest respect to McKagan – Walking Papers were about Jeff Angell and Barrett Martin mostly. Angell, a gifted singer and guitarist and formidable frontman (as he showed again with Staticland last year) and Martin, the one-time Screaming Trees drummer formed the band, along with the brilliant keyboard player Benjamin Anderson (who had been with Angell in Missionary Position) and the four bonded to create something special on the debut.

Fast forward some five years and they are back. Actually, they are a little more than back, they are returning with a mission. As Angell puts it: There’s no excuse to not be great anymore.

Lofty ambitions for most, but it is immediately obvious from the hum of opener “My Luck Pushed Back” that they were right to set the bar. The guitar work is mighty, and the lyrics: (“the truth is somewhere near the middle, that’s why I prefer the edge”) are clever and feel, perhaps, a little more confessional than before.

Maybe their greatest strength is their ability to come at things from a strange angle.  “Death On The Lips” for example starts with the thought “those girls weren’t thinking about the weather, when they decided what they were gonna wear tonight”. Motley Crue and “Girls, Girls, Girls” this is not. Instead, this is almost soulful – largely thanks to Anderson’s efforts, and he is all over “Red And White” too, with his piano as things change pace, and Angell responds with a brilliantly brooding performance.

Make no mistake, though, WP can do rock n roll. “Somebody Else” has some filthy harmonica to show that. It’s just that they often like to work in the shadows as on, “Yours Completely” which has an electricity, not to mention lyrics that suggest “we stick together like pages in a dirty magazine.”

“Hard To Look Away” is something a little more visceral, but they can never resist doing it their own sweet way. “Before You Arrived” is infused with something rather modern and funky and there is an edgy, unsettling air about “Don’t Owe Me Nothing” but as if to dare you to second guess them, they add a heavy dynamic to “This Is How It Ends”.

When dealing with Walking Papers you are dealing with a real musical chemistry. The bass and keyboards meld superbly on “I Know You’re Lying” and Angell indulges himself with a brilliant solo on the sleazy “Into The Truth”.

13 songs is reasonably lengthy for an album these days, but whilst some of these might occupy very disparate territory, it is a remarkably consistent record. “King Hooker” with its blusey boogie is almost like an updated version of ZZ Top, while although “WP 2” ends with its most sprawling moment, the lengthy “Right In Front Of Me”, it somehow fits together.

Walking Papers are a band who do things for the right reasons, and do things in the right way. “There is no reason not to be great” is not just hyperbole. It is an ideal that is shot right through “Walking Papers 2” – and the album is all the better for it.

Rating 8.5/10

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