[Locals Only] Paperplanes, Rhinestone Republic (Cougar Trap)

Being the ethical and fair music critics we are at the Weekly, it'd be unjust to place any presumptions on a band we've glowingly reviewed before. For instance, in 2004, we proclaimed Paperplanes' five-track EP to be the “greatest rock N roll music” we'd ever heard. No pressure, right?

So we approached Paperplanes' Rhinestone Republic (Cougar Trap) with a sparkling clean and unburdened mind. One noticeable difference, however, is the improved production values since we last heard from this Long Beach foursome—there's not a single Sharpie scrawl in sight. And for a group that's had a revolving turnstile of band members, the current assemblage of Micah Panzich (guitar, vocals), Pete Tavera (bass, vocals), Rob Harvick (drums) and Cliff Kane (pedal steel guitar) might be their much-needed foundation. Paperplanes seem to have found a solid stomping ground to perfect their foray into the blossoming alt-country scene.

Long gone is the riff-rock penchant so prevalent in '04; they've removed all traces of scuzz and grunge. “Honky Tonk” gets right down to their newer dusty Western sound, thanks to Kane's bright, shining pedal steel. Tavera's bass thumps along perfectly to Panzich's guitar twang, all very tumbleweeds-and-moonshine. Little-known fact: Cowboys dig love songs, and this disc's “Full Bloom” is a sorrowful ballad that sweetly shows off Tavera's deep, honey-coated vocals. “Oh Be My” does the same for Panzich's nasally crooning. So what if these shitkickers are from the LBC?

Rhinestone Republic reveals Paperplanes' latest stage of evolution: crisp, twangy country that's cool enough to survive in picky OC. And the band's steady stream of shows suggests they're not just surviving, but thriving.

For more information, visit www.myspace.com/paperplanes.

Attention Orange County/Long Beach musicians and bands! Mail your music, along with your vital contact info and a decent high-resolution photo (plus any impending performance dates) for possible review to: Locals Only,OC Weekly, 1666 N. Main St., Ste. 500, Santa Ana, CA 92701. Or just be lazy and e-mail your MySpace link to ds****@oc******.com.

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