Paperback Tragedy – Threeshe!

Ahh, Pop Punk. The genre that’s damned if it does, and damned if it doesn’t. The de-facto outcast in a music genre made for outcasts. Pop Punk has saved my soul several times. It’s also been the bane of my fandom. If done right, it can be a rich, fulfilling consumption experience akin to a dessert. But much like its derogatory moniker “bubble gum”; it’s cheap, full of sweeteners that only appeal at first, and loses its taste shortly after the first bite. Sometimes you’ll get Pop Punk worthy of candy-bar-status. But just like a Snickers bar, it’s usually full of lies, unnecessary additives, and leaves you hungry for actual sustenance.

Then there’s Pop Punk like Paperback Tragedy’s latest LP from Allegedly Records. Threeshe! is a decadent treat that’s every bit as nourishing as it is rebellious. A well-crafted work of art that tantalizes your senses while doubling as a mainstay as important as culinary cornerstones like vanilla ice cream and hot apple pie.

Don’t get it twisted, though. Threeshe! isn’t just a dessert you have every once in a while. This record is the real deal. From the introductory track (with its adorable host announcing the grand arrival of Threeshe!) the band lets you know that you’re in for a worthwhile journey indicative of its play-like overture, “Last Ride of the Coastal Warriors”.

The first full-fledged song, “Autumn Again”, is a nice introduction to the band that harkens back to their first LP Ba Bah Gooshe – with less of a Saves the Day vibe and more of a NOFX influence. Now, before you roll your eyes, allow me to elaborate. PbT drummer, Clay, is obviously a student of NOFX’s Smelly, with sick triplet double-bass beats, blistering fast feels, and the uncanny ability to switch things up on a dime. Smelly is a punk rock legend, and Clay takes that torch and runs with it from the jump. Frontman, Will West, applies a satisfying callback to the glory days of Fat Mike’s vocal style, while not sounding like Mike at all. Will’s vocal tambour is naturally appealing, and his ability to navigate through intricate harmonies that weave in and out of heartfelt lyrics already has me feeling like I’m going to love the shit out of this record.

PbT wastes little time letting me know that I’m not in for typical Pop Punk fare. The very next track, “Divided”, opens with an aggressive 3/4 rhythm that will have even the most calloused Hardcore fan headbanging with that weird, awkward bobble atop their thick-ass neck. Yeah. You know the one I’m talking about. Will’s voice transitions seamlessly from the bubbly-yet-melancholy vibe of the first tune into an anthemic vocal performance worthy of conjuring a proper circle pit. Frogg and C-Lunch make their presence known as well on bass and guitar respectively, showing that it takes skill and spunk to create bar-setting Punk Rock.

My boss told me to keep this review to four paragraphs and that I didn’t have to write about every song. But, shit! How can I ignore amazing tunes like “Deep Inside”, “Wishing Stars”, and “To the Bunker”?! Each one is like sampling the very best of several tasty punk rock sub-genres. The songwriting is stellar on these tracks, at a point in the record when output may sag a bit as bands save their heavy hitters for more strategic slots on the track list. Paperback Tragedy comes into each round swinging for the knockout with the key word being songwriting. It’s this reviewer’s firm belief that, in spite of a song’s inherent label, a truly good song can be adapted into many forms.

As Threeshe! blazes on, I find myself imagining the band playing a bonfire acoustic set with renditions of “Mirror, Mirror” and “2-28” ringing out under a blanket of stars while my friends and I sing along to every word.

Like any album overflowing with good songs, I was upset knowing that the end was drawing near, as “Take Me Back (To the Sidebar)” tickled all of my special spots that remind me of Billy Joel and Buddy Holly. My upset didn’t cause the tears to flow, though. Instead, the crying was all Will’s fault. His thoughtful lyrics and passionate delivery turned what would have been just some other band’s bland entry in the historical record about my favorite worldwide catastrophe (and yours!) – the 2020 COVID Pandemic – into a heart-wrenching trip down memory lane where “there’s some friends waiting for me… in the heart of my city”. The band really shines as a whole, as the music pairs perfectly with lyrical lines that remind us of the importance of self-care, and that even when our dreams have to be put on hold, we can always start back down the path that will ultimately lead to our goals.

Finally, Threeshe! ends with a love letter in the guise of a masterful callback to the sounds of early 2000’s Hellogoodbye. Once again, Will’s remarkable way of relating to any and everyone who may listen, hits super close to the heart with proclamations like “Some days I’m so broken, you put me back together. Sometimes, I’m so messed up. You always make it better”. And no matter who the song’s real-life subject may be, I think it’s safe to say that we all have at least that one person in our lives that makes us feel the level of love and comfort that Will feels with the person he wrote this song for.

So eat the dessert. Every fucking day, if you want to. Because Paperback Tragedy’s Threeshe! is the soul food we all need right now.

Vinny is a sometimes music blogger who has one decent promotional headshot that he uses for everything and way too little time to do all of the things he wants to do. He plays in both Jersey Calling and Midlife Covers, as well as runs Rabid Penguin Records. 

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