PAPA’s Tender Madness is like a pie from Walmart rather than one that’s homemade.
Loma Vista, 2013
4.3 / 10
With the dissolution of Girls, we’ve seen new music from many of the projects members this year including frontman Christopher Owens’ solo turn, Chet “JR” White holding down production duties on the excellent Sob Story by Spectrals, and now Girls’ drummer Darren Weiss is getting in on the fun with his new project PAPA. Not merely a one-trick pony, Weiss is a multi-instrumentalist, and his PAPA project’s debut is filled with pianos, strings, synthesizers and guitars. It sounds BIG, so BIG that The New York Times T Magazine made a to-do about it1. The album, Tender Madness is adorned with catchy anthems and the occasional down-tempo ballad, immediately accessible for listeners introduced to music by Taco Bell advertisements1. Says Weiss about the album: “Some love songs were written about fictional characters in novels who were oftentimes far more compelling than the creatures I had access to.”1 Yes, he referred to past lovers or maybe even just people in his life as creatures. Now the “tender” in the album’s title just feels pervy.
It’s easy to understand why PAPA would be praised, despite not doing anything spectacular. Music critics and listeners alike have become complacent in the type of songs present on Tender Madness. They’re written as a way of getting to a hook with meaningless humdrum lyrics and generic pop cooing used as a filler or artificial sweetener. It’s like eating a pie purchased from a Walmart bakery rather than one homemade. Take for example the album’s single, “Young Rut”, it’s whooing chorus and big sound scream HIT SONG until it’s almost believable. However, peel away the layers, and it sounds soulless and made in Japan on an assembly line. Weiss’ vocals do nothing to engage PAPA’s listeners. His voice resembles Airborne Toxic Event’s Mikel Jollett or South Park’s Mr. Mackey doing an impression of Joy Division or Interpol. After many of the lyrics, I was expecting an mmkay2. “I just want to be your man/ I want you now like never before” — what song is this? Well, it’s actually two songs.
“Perhaps most often, I tried in earnest to tell my truths as I lived them,” Weiss says about the songs on Tender Madness, and maybe that’s true. Maybe Weiss has become complacent as everyone else buying into these vapid mass-produced pop songs. It’s a shame too since he was able to catch some solid songwriting while behind the drumkit of Girls. Not saying that Christopher Owens’ recent solo work has been exceptional, but Father Son Holy Ghost stands apart as one of 2011’s best albums for its earnest songwriting. Such a thing may not sell the most records, but it’s more memorable in the long run because it’s harder to mimic.
“Replacements (Curls In The Grass)”
1. Cue horror movie-style chords.
2. That would have actually been fun.