When Jacoby Shaddix (a.k.a. Coby Dick) was bashing his forehead bloody with the mic night after night on last year’s Ozzfest, it became pretty clear that Papa Roach were a tortured, turbulent group – one far removed from the cookie-cutter rap-metal bands to which it was frequently compared. As if to hammer home the point, the band has distanced itself even further from its former peers on Lovehatetragedy, which comes out June 18.
Aside from a rapped section in the first single, “She Loves Me Not,” and a few half-spoken vocal lines in various other songs, there’s nothing on the album that could possibly get Papa Roach lumped in with Crazy Town or Trik Turner. There are still plenty of lunging hip-hop-inspired beats bounding through the disc, but they’re accompanied by melodic vocals that showcase Shaddix’s singing ability (see “In The Studio With Papa Roach: More Rocking, Less Rhyming On New LP”).
Throughout the disc, Papa Roach make it clear they no longer want to be a rap-rock band, though they seem uninterested in filling any other specific musical niche. Instead, they delve into a variety of styles, including garage punk, power pop, rock and, of course, surging nÃ¼-metal. They even deliver a gangbustin’ cover of the Pixies’ “Gouge Away.”
Lovehatetragedy opens with the storming bluster of “M-80 (Explosive Energy Movement),” which sounds like MC5 by way of Monster Magnet. The next track, “Life Is a Bullet,” is slower and more brooding, a tone the band also adopts on “Decompression Period” and “Black Skies.” Much of the rest of the record dwells between these two musical extremes. One of the group’s favorite tricks is to kick off a song with a surging, stomping rhythm and aggressive vocals before softening the blow with a sugary chorus, as on “She Loves Me Not.” And “Code of Energy” features storming riffs and assaulting vocals, but climaxes with yet another harmonious refrain.
Not everything on the record is easy to categorize. “Singular Indestructible Droid” rides a wave of muted guitars one moment, then segues into tumbling hip-hop beats before detonating in a gale of dissonant guitars and stomping beats. And the album closer, “Naked in Front of the Computer,” is fierce and howlingly heavy, showcasing a tattered range of wobbly guitar bends, precise, militant beats and barked vocals.
Lovehatetragedy may be somewhat musically schizophrenic, but it’s lyrically unified, unraveling in a torrent of direct, angst-fueled anecdotes. Since the divorce-driven tirades that informed such songs as “Broken Home” and “Last Resort” from Papa Roach’s 2000 debut, Infest, Shaddix has found lots of new things to despise, and because of this, Lovehatetragedy is a more poignant and rewarding listen.
Some tracks, including “Born With Nothing, Die With Everything,” “Life Is a Bullet” and “Decompression Period,” address the hardships the band has endured on the road and in the studio. “Night after night we are falling apart/ Now it’s two empty bottles and four broken hearts,” Shaddix sings on the latter cut.
The most affecting songs, though, are the ones Shaddix has penned about his troubled relationship with his wife, Kelly, who recently gave birth to their first child, Makaile Cielo Shaddix. Sometimes he forcefully rages against his wife, other moments he viciously blames himself. On “She Loves Me Not,” Shaddix rails, “I don’t know if I care/ I’m the jerk, life’s not fair/ Fighting all the time, this is out of line/ She loves me not”. And on “Time and Time Again,” he shouts, “It’s like a fight every single day/ It’s always easy when you have it your way/ Deep in my heart, the depths of my soul/ My selfish ways are out of control.”
Then there are songs such as “Black Clouds,” in which Shaddix seems tormented for no explicable reason. “I’m tired of running/ It’s time to face my demons/ Like ashes to ashes, I always seem to fall down/ I’m pushing myself to a point of self-destruction/ Confession, depression, this life I’m second-guessin’.”
In very general terms, Lovehatetragedy addresses the tragedy that occurs in Shaddix’s mind when he’s unable to balance the love and hate in his life. It’s a dilemma that’s existed through the ages and one that’s been explored in numerous pieces of great art, literature and music. Or as Shaddix shouts over and over at the end of “She Loves Me Not,” “Life’s not fairrrrrrrr, life’s not fairrrrrrr.”