Paper Chest Hair (2000)

this might be the most “mature” papa ghostface CD from the first phase of our existence. some of our most accessible songs sit alongside some of our most twisted creations, and it all feels like it glues itself together as an album in a way that didn’t always happen with our earlier work.

filth of your love is driven by some of the best rhyming lyrics i ever wrote, with an ending that sounds like a happy drunken sea shanty. time again is almost a pop song by our standards, while sinkless man is a bluesy strut, with me slipping into the character of a cynical homeless man. sand paper nicks the bass line from the steve miller song “the joker”. i’m still not sure why i ever thought that was a good idea. but just between those four songs, there’s some of the best wordplay on any PG album, and some of the catchiest-but-still-weird-enough-to-stay-interesting music we committed to plastic.

then things get a little stranger.

piece of crap in your shoe is one of the weirdest PG songs ever, starting out as some kind of warped metal/electronica hybrid on bad drugs before disintegrating into vocal insanity. something pink isn’t far behind, with a demented mid-section that comes out of nowhere, mutating the weird energy floating through a monologue that sounds a little like a nervous breakdown set to music (really it was just something i wrote to pass the time when i was supposed to be paying attention in high school parenting class). the obligatory macabre spoken word piece shows up in the form of what they had was so pure — a tale of high school sweethearts reunited that takes an unexpected turn at the end — and it has a sense of purpose and a crafted feeling that sets it apart from our usual “talkies”.

i’m convinced some of gord’s best guitar-playing of all time is on this album. his work on narcotic girl and rabbits and leeches is improvised sexiness of the highest order. i mean, on narcotic girl the guy manages to draw what sounds like genuine feedback from his guitar while playing through our old friend the digitech effects box, with no actual amp to speak of in the signal path. how do you even do that?

this album is also notable for marking the exact moment i first figured out how to bend a guitar string — an accidental discovery you can sort of hear happening during my bridge solo on letting go. that was a happy day.

the long, subdued rabbits and leeches has always been one of my favourite tracks, with its moody slow burn gaining momentum as it goes and some of my best bass-playing on the album. and letting go features a mini-song after the fade-out, à la YOU’RE A NATION, with gord playing some very tasty acoustic guitar. there’s even a hidden track that involves the castration of then-prime minister of ontario mike harris by 911 workers via gunshot wound, followed by a message to the nonexistent papa ghostface fans. those were the days.

we recorded this album in a way that was a little different from anything we’d done before. this time i wrote the lyrics for most of the songs instead of improvising them, and instrumental tracks were recorded before the vocals — sometimes even before i had written words to work off of. but unlike SONGS FOR DEAD SKIN, the music was given space to develop. and while some of the songs with written lyrics were sung to music that was improvised, it worked a lot better this time around, because we let the music ebb and flow naturally without trying to shape it into anything other than what it wanted to be.

in the case of narcotic girl, for instance, i wrote three different sets of lyrics that had nothing to do with one another and tried singing at least two of them before i came up with something that felt right. i never would have taken that much time to figure out what was best for a song before. it also didn’t hurt that we’d both come a long way as musicians, individually and as a team.

all of that combined to form an album that felt more like a cohesive piece of work than anything we’d done up to this point. instead of just slapping the songs down in the order they were recorded, this time i gave some real thought to the ebb and flow of things, as with SHOEBOX PARADISE — arranging the songs based on what felt like it would create the best movement from one track to the next. it would be the last time i would deviate from chronological sequencing on a non-compilation album until the PAVEMENT HUGGING DADDIES EP in 2004 (after which i would never return to the “put the songs on the album as they’re recorded and leave it at that” approach again).

i thought this album was kind of patchy for the first few years after it was finished. i can’t for the life of me remember why i felt that way. maybe it was because there was more structure in the songs than i was used to hearing on our CDs. whatever it was, time has revealed this to be some of our best work, right up there with SHOEBOX PARADISEYOU’RE A NATION, and STEW. kind of crazy to listen to this and realize we were still the same 16-year-old guys who’d recorded those first few papa ghostface albums.

TRACKS:

filth of your love
time again
sinkless man
sand paper
piece of crap in your shoe
letting go
something pink
crawl
what they had was so pure
rabbits and leeches
narcotic girl

LISTEN:

sinkless man

time again



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