Photo by Jeanne RicePaper Planes
Five-Track CD EP
These are the life-affirming moments we live for: a CD comes in the mail from a band we've never heard of, with ordinary, hand-scrawled text on the paper-insert cover and a disc that's been violated with a Sharpie, and, not expecting to get much use from it as anything other than a beer coaster or coke mirror, we slip it in the box, hit PLAY . . . and it instantly becomes the greatest rock & roll music we've ever heard in our lives. And for a few days last week—a week where everybody, from The Orange County Register to the LA Times to Rolling Stone, preferred to wallow in flatulent Beatles-on-Ed Sullivan anniversary nostalgia (they broke up 34 fucking years ago and weren't nearly as great as everyone thinks they were, all right?)—we happily opened our ears to the here and now and as-yet-unheralded. And it felt invigorating, too, because calling Long Beach's Paper Planes "greatest rock" anything somehow doesn't feel like soulless, shameless hype, either. For here was a case of love at first strum—a hard-on from the opening split-second of "Fever Blister," with its killer Velvets-purloined riff that the Strokes tried hard to nail down but never could and the fantastic, desperate plea from singer Micah Panzich ("I've got a fever blister baby!/It's causing me some shame!"), all coated in snazzy guitars and chaotic yowling that manages to neatly wrap up in just more than two minutes, just as the best rock & roll always has. In a weird way, this sort of sucks because "Fever Blister" is one of those tremendous tunes you never want to end—but then, that's why some Japanese technicians wisely invented the REPEAT key, innit? But hold up—there are still vast realms of unexplored greatness in the disc's 23 minutes. "Constant Frustration" is a snappy shuffle, with lines that may or may not allude to American occupations of foreign countries (Paper Planes aren't political, at least not overtly). "Mexico" has terrifically poppy choruses that, in our secret fantasy world, we retreat to whenever the officemates have Fox News turned on; "Mexico" should be at least as popular as "Hey Ya." "Time Won't Build" has a jangly quality that feels like it was separated at birth from REM's Murmur (with lyrics based on "The Torturer" by South African-born Zulu poet Mazisi Kunene; Paper Planes aren't just an incredible band—they're smart and literate, too), sad and plaintive, yet gloriously so. And "Live How We Live" is their epic, a nearly nine-minute song littered with handclaps and scream-out-loud hooks—you might think of Big Star, but like everything else on here, they hammer it into a marvelous object of their own design. So how great are Paper Planes, besides being merely the sculptors of, like we say, "the greatest rock & roll music we've ever heard in our lives?" (Clarification, on further thought: we do change this pronouncement with some regularity.) So great that we notoriously freeloading rock critics would actually go out and buy this record if we didn't already have it for free—and we wouldn't even insist on getting reimbursed by our accounting department, either! They are that fabulous.
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Paper Planes perform at Que Sera, 1923 E. Seventh St., Long Beach, (562) 599-6170. Sat., 9 p.m. $5. 21+.