With so many bands releasing nostalgia-fuelled emo/pop-punk this past couple of years, it’s hard to figure out even what’s worth listening to in the first place. In theory, Paerish, apart from their being from – you guessed it – Paris, have no reason to stand out: their sound is familiar, and their influences, which range from pre-grunge to 90s emo, are obvious. Despite rarely distancing themselves from the conventions of the genre, the French alt-rock quartet shows quite a lot of potential.
The mysteriously-titled ‘Winona Ryder’ is a perfect opener, its heavy intro starting out with a solid bass riff, and then shifting into more safe, yet driving pop punk with fiery drumming and a catchy chorus. On the single and highlight ‘Undone’ the gritty bass line is juxtaposed with the shoe-gaze-inspired guitars, echoing vocals, and quite a warm melody. The chorus is memorable, too, though on first listen you’re not sure what the singer is saying, but it’s more obscure than you’d expect (“Allies always get so numb when it’s easy, too/Our tongues feeling encircled when we’re only two”). It’s one of the moments where the band shows a bit more character.
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The track ‘I Got Punched in the Face, What’s Your Excuse’ shows that the songs can get dynamic, while the multilayered instrumentation and the guitar solo during the bridge stand out. The title track has an anthemic feel to it, and builds up wonderfully, as the instrumentation becomes more dense, leading to a fervid outro. The band’s versatility becomes obvious on tracks like the invigorating ‘Then People Forget’, which features this heavy, overdriven guitar and bass riff, which is infectious. It’s impossible not to hear the Rise Against influence on the vocals, especially at the very end, but despite that they sound more passionate than ever and the lyrics are less vague.
When you listen to the next set of tracks you can imagine the band getting big, as they embrace their catchiness. The intricate drumming at the beginning of ‘5-57’ once again showcases Julien Louvion’s talent, while the chorus is heartfelt and nostalgic. On the energetic bridge you can hear a little bit of their math-rock influences. ‘Party’s Over, Biff’, another highlight, is a bit of a change of pace, with heavy guitars giving their way to American Football-esque, dreamy ones, while the bass still remains characteristically heavy. It’s one of the most affecting tracks, as Mathias Court sings ‘It’s your call/ Were we ever good at listening?”. The next track, ‘Playing Field’, uses that same formula, and by this point, they’ve proved they can create memorable hooks quite easily.
The album should have ended, however conventionally, on the moving acoustic song ‘Sailplane’. I’m not sure if the vagueness of the lyrics detracts from their immediacy, which was forgivable on the more heavy tracks. But perhaps it fits with the self-reflective mood of the album, illustrated wonderfully on the album cover: blurry and nostalgic.