Artist: The Caesars
Album: Paper Tigers
On Christmas morning 2003 I got SSX3 for my PS2 console and had found a love for gaming that had been lost on me for many months. Not only was it a fresh and beautiful looking game that was just the purest joy to play, the music for the guy that I snowboarded as was from another planet.
This was my first introduction to The Caesars, and I know: what kind of credibility am I painting for them in the mind of an uninitiated listener by mentioning it? Yes it’s true; the song was on a video game’s soundtrack. It was a damn good video game’s soundtrack, but a video game’s soundtrack nonetheless.
“Jerk It Out,” was the song that played and never did I tire of it. Little did I know this song would not tire of me either.
It returned to me again, two years later in a dream. No, my bad, it was on an iPod shuffle commercial (even more street cred!) that debuted on youngster-to-college student-aged television in the second semester of my freshman year of college.
Alcohol and the demands of scholarly pursuits (but mostly alcohol) had taken a significant toll on my mind by this point in the year (ok vastly, basically entirely alcohol) and the nostalgia that this song triggered was a welcome reprieve from the black hole of despair that my life had become (yeah…completely, totally, inescapably alcohol).
By late April I had thankfully fallen into the unavoidable crash & burn that accompanies all addictions and after psychosis, terror, excess, brush with death, hospitalization, pain, suffering, seizures, more brush with death, more hospitalization, withdrawal and recovery had run their course…
The Caesars new album came out.
Paper Tigers came to me at a time when I was desperately gripping for something that bore the slightest resemblance to anything that I had known prior to falling off the cliff that I descended into throughout that costly year of my life.
Never had I found a work of art so cohesive, so lyrically poignant, or so beautifully, wonderfully simplistic. It shuddered, and then stood upright, it grabbed you with a caustic yet inviting urgency that showed you the morning before the evening had completely left you.
It was essentially, the way you wished love could be.
It began with hesitation, barely a whisper, and then the guitar’s first chord is struck, over and over and over again. Seconds later, you hear Cesar speak for the first time. He’s really telling you something, and you don’t know why, but somehow you believe every word he’s saying. That’s all it takes. You’re there for the rest of the album and you can’t wait for the next song.
Before he had reached the second verse, I realized that he was looking for the same thing I was. A complete, total and uncompromising return to what he had once known. To somehow find something wild and alive in the stability of the sleepy neighborhood streets from his youth.
This was a theme that would be maintained throughout the rest of the album and the rest of my summer.
I feel like John Cusack in “High Fidelity,” organizing his albums autobiographically. And you know what? It’s a good feeling. Where’s my Cosby sweater? I think I’m gonna put it on.
Following “Spirit,” the epic opener that you need to hear to believe, you’re hit with “It’s Not The Fall That Hurts.” It was a graphic reminder. The fall didn’t really hurt at all until I was close to the end. The initial portion of the fall was a hoot. Once I allowed myself to teeter off the edge, the ground that would eventually rise up to meet me was of no concern, I was going to enjoy this fall and enjoy it to the fullest.
Sure enough, “it’s when you hit the ground” are the second lines of this hook. I find it highly doubtful that I would have ever grasped the meaning of this song had I come upon it at any other point in my life.
I have never had faith in the abilities of psychiatrists. I am in no place to say that they do not work for some people, but I was convinced that they would do nothing for me. Even after being diagnosed as a chronic alcoholic before my 19th birthday, I refused to subject myself to the scrutiny of one of those people.
But I did attend therapy. I attended it every time I played this album.
Suddenly a new drum beat drops, perfectly syncopated snare and bass compliments the new riff. “Out There” connects to you and you are immediately cognizant of the adventurous search that is taking place here.
They are using the music as a tool for the lyrics. What a novel idea, huh? They are utilizing a retro style, a throwback if you will, to when rock n’ roll was in its earliest purest form. How much more perfect of a method could a band ask for so as to rediscover what was pure and good in themselves through music?
Then there it is again “Jerk It Out,” and it leads a parade of bouncing, gyrating, mirthful tones that explode and sizzle only to explode again. The title track hits at the album’s center, cooling things off after the dazzlingly heated assault you just endured. It’s a calm, melodic groove, fit for the recovery time that greets the middle of a bands set at some summer amphitheatre in a sundown field. Awakening once more you’re are taken back into the fray, and love every minute of it.
Then “Winter Song” occurs. And it just so happens, that the more the song progresses the more you understand the album as a whole and why everything before it happened in the first place.
It’s a beautifully treated acoustic guitar, complimented by chimes, string arrangements, drum swells and a far-off icy echo that I just can’t place.
As the last three songs progress, you realize that these are true masters at their craft. You see the entire portrait they have painted for you and you can finally lay your summer down to sleep, kissing it good by once its fast a slumber.
I never finished listening to this album. I’ve never listened to the final track all the way until the end. For all I know there’s a brilliant hidden track following the last sounds uttered within “Good and Gone.”
But I’ll never know.
Much like you can’t bring yourself to read the last few pages of “Return of the King,” or to wake the Windfish at the end of “Link’s Awakening,” they all means the same thing.
Saying goodbye to old friends.
I followed these guys on this journey from track 1 to track 13. Constructing a perfect album, a little bit of magic and a personal miracle for me. The sun went down on my summer with me understanding why I was still around. What took place while listening to that album was a remarkable transcendence in my mind from what I had once thought an album should be.
I found an album that was made for me, and I pray you do too.
This one, ladies and gentleman, is perfect.
“…runnin through these empty streets… this city’s built for you and me…”
October 3rd 2006 3:04 AM
Brubacher Hall, Albany, New York
NOTE: Better late than never I always say, and this addition to the site is no exception. Muchos thanks in order to Jared Adams and his deeply personal twist on the review. Jared is of course the folk/pop songweaver I reviewed eariler this year. When he's not writting more songs than you've ever heard, he also lends his pen to an Albany newspaper writting a gonozo collum. He and I have differernt ideas on many things including animal rights, but we both agree on this album, its a groovey jam. Listen to his music or tell him you liked his review at the myspace (you damn kids and your interweb!!).