On Friday 2nd of March one of the albums I've most been looking forward to being released in 2018 was released. Edinburgh's Paper Rifles released their brand new full length album titled The State Of It All. The State Of It All is Paper Rifles first release as a full band after frontman Jon originally started out the project as an acoustic endeavour and has released a handful of superb EPs. When I first heard the album would be released full band this really added to my excitement for the release. The album features some older Paper Rifles songs that are given the full band treatment as well as some brand new tracks. Enough intro-ing, let's give The State Of It All a thorough listen.
The State Of It All begins with one of my favourite Paper Rifles songs - the awesome Politics. When those familiar lyrics "Every young man pins his colours to a mast" get the song started only with the backing of an electric guitar, rather than Jon's trusty acoustic, I expect the song to launch into a loud and fast paced version. Instead it's a more mid-tempo number with the added full band making the song sound huge. I think starting with this slower number was a bit of a masterstroke as it eases you into the new Paper Rifles sound rather than being too in-your-face too quickly. Four Hours is another big favourite of mine and I suspect many other people's. It was on the first single Paper Rifles released back in 2014 and has also featured on a split release with Billy Liar so it's no surprise to see it making an appearance of The State Of It All as well. Seeing the evolution of this track has been just wonderful. Acoustically the song is bursting with passion but this new full band version just explodes. This is the full blown punk rock track I first expected from Politics, at the start of the album, and I love it. The electric guitar, provided by Elk Gang's Kevin Cameron, sounds great and really brings an already lively song into another world. Jon's vocals have always been superb and remain so here, even adding a little snarl to them – it's punk rock, you need a little snarl. The rocking continues on the third song, Faith Healer, which was the first single released in support of the album. Jon's voice continues to grow and grow on the track with some angry shouts I wasn't aware he was capable of. The tempo is high and gives the song an excellent feeling or urgency. Despite the fast pace, the punchy style that the vocals are delivered in make the song so easy to sing and shout along to.
The fourth song is Ophelia. Ophelia is one of Paper Rifles' quieter acoustic songs so when I saw The State Of It All's tracklisting I was very interested to see how it would work full band. The song shows brilliantly the importance of having a great chorus – it doesn't matter how it's played, I just want to sing along with the song. I really enjoyed the opening of the song, giving me a sense of the Elk Gang influence that makes up 50% of Paper Rifles full band – Elk Gang's other guitarist, James Johnson, plays drums for Paper Rifles. No Tunnel Light is the first completely original song on the album. Listening to the song there is a real feeling that this song was written as a full band song originally rather than an acoustic song. I loved the tempo of the song and the melody is just wonderful. The track is about feeling at a loss with the world despite being past your twenties and wondering if this feeling will ever end. Much like Politics at the start of the album, It Always Rains In Scotland starts similarly to its acoustic counterpart. This Paper Rifles love song doesn't really stray too far from the structure of its original incarnation with the full band style giving the song a fuller and more rounded sound. The seventh song is Pennies For The Dead. This political song sees Paper Rifles at their angry best as they play a song about how war is about making a profit and not worrying about the loss of life for so many innocent people. This version of the song certainly has more passion than the original and gets its point across in a different way. The original version carries more of a thoughtful emotion in it whilst this full band version has a feeling of "we're angry, we've had enough, we're not taking this anymore."
Sharp Tongues is another brand new Paper Rifles song and it's bloody ace indie punk at its finest. It's a big anthem that's accessible for fans of punk rock as well as people of a more indie persuasion. If I was playing somebody Paper Rifles for the first time this is the perfect song to ease them in. From its excellent song structure, the way that the vocals are delivered in a way that make them so easy to sing along to or the simple "ooooooh" harmonies that get stuck in your head, you can't help but be pulled into the song. Bad Blood is the ninth song on The State Of It All. Not straying too far away from its original sound, the electric guitars are subtle for the most part during the song, eventually building towards a big and emotional finale. I like that the band haven't decided to play as hard and as fast as they possibly can just because this is a full band effort and, for the most part, the songs have remained true to their original forms. It feels more like a natural evolution rather than a reworking for the sake of reworking. The penultimate song Made To Break is the other song from Paper Rifles' debut single from 2014. The guitars at the beginning of the track give you the impression that this will be a fast paced, punk rock sing-a-long. Well it's definitely another sing-a-long but its goes along at a nice mid-tempo speed, this allows you to get really invested in the song. The band give a great sense of urgency throughout the opening of the song with a simple beat and melody accompanying Jon's excellent emotive vocals. The band also provide some fantastic backing vocals during the track. Last up is I Was A Whaler. Paper Rifles goes old school here with an acoustic song to finish the album. This style is what made me fall in love with Paper Rifles music so it's nice to hear that the acoustic sound hasn't gone completely. This song finishes The State Of It All with more incredible emotion with Jon really tugging on your heart strings during the track.
Like I said at the start of this review, I was really looking forward to hearing this album. Often there are times when eagerly anticipated albums leave you feeling a little disappointed. This certainly wasn't the case for The State Of It All. The old favourite songs sound absolutely incredible full band and the brand new songs are brilliant as well. This is coming from someone who has been following the Paper Rifles project from almost the very beginning and it's just been an absolute pleasure seeing it grow and grow and just get better and better. If you're not a Paper Rifles fan yet, get listening to this album and you soon will be!
Stream and download The State Of It All here: https://paper-rifles.bandcamp.com/album/the-state-of-it-all
Like Paper Rifles here: https://www.facebook.com/PaperRifles/
This review was written by Colin Clark.