Taproot – Plead The Fifth9/10
If you’re on this site, you’ve probably heard a Taproot song. They have always been a weird band on the scene. Their most popular album is in my opinion, their worst and their most unsung major label album is in my opinion their best. Mostly known for their radio hits “ Poem”, “Again & Again” and “Calling” Taproot were called “The Nu kings of Nu Metal”, “Future rap rock gods”, “The next big thing”. But for whatever reason could never seem to break into the upper echelon of popularity shared by bands like “Limp Bizkit” and “Deftones”. This in my opinion is a damn shame because, sans possibly the Deftones, Taproot is the most original and musically gifted band to come out of the late 90’s early 2000’s rap rock scene.
Plead the fifth sees Taproot revert back to their old sound whilst still retaining the soaring melodies of their past two efforts. Out of the 11 songs on the album, only 4 of them don’t roaring come out of the gate and kick you in the stomach. That’s because three of them opted to go right for your testicals and the remainder just soared over your head. The thing about taproot is that they refuse to have a song maintain a certain structure. The songs that start off brutally get softer then back to brutal and the songs that start off soft kick it to ten shortly thereafter. Taproot keeps the listener guessing and unlike many…..many…..many……MANY...Of their contemporaries, no two songs sound alike. Kudos gents, you’ve blown my mind.
Taproot’s music has always been inconsistent. Borrowing from the Deftones, Taproot has never really stayed in one area musically. They’ve followed up huge screaming rock tunes with soaring ballads and pop songs. They’ve done minute long elevator music like intros to songs that ended up being the heaviest on the album. The first two Taproot albums, “Gift” and “Welcome” were very heavy efforts from a new, raw band looking to make their mark. But since then each release has gotten more and more mellow. 2005’s Blue-Sky Research” and 2008’s “Our Long Road Home” featured improved melodies, song writing and production, but (especially the latter) lacked the ass kicking jams of the previous albums. Plead the fifth however has taken the best of both era’s and crafted itself into what is in my opinion Taproots best album in years. The album makes use of many Odd time signatures, and never really stays in one place. “Stolage” sounds like the band wrote four catchy choruses and put them together into one song. The lead single “Fractured (Everything I Said was True)” Features the use of a very start and stop style, switching between beautiful melody and an intense, spitfire delivery. The really interesting thing about “PTF” is that it was written, recorded and released insanely fast for a Taproot album. Many fans of Taproot understand how frustrating it was with Taproot being the type of band that would write 100 songs, then say “whatever” and start over from scratch. Plead the Fifth was released in the shortest turnaround between albums in the bands history and actually increased in quality.
Stephen Richards is the best singer in the genre. There, I’ve said it. Although “Plead the fifth” is a return to form for Taproot, Absent is the young Stephen Richards who would sing, and often rap about the teenage angst issues that we’ve all had to deal with at one point in our lives. On this album I’ve found that he’s really taken his vocal delivery to a whole other level and has added new flavours and textures to the already varied approach he takes to his vocals. Most noticeably I found that he has begun to “spit” in his singing. The best example of this would have to be the lead single “Fractured (everything I said was true), where Richards moves effortlessly through high paced, spitfire singing to radio friendly melodic singing. You’d also think that after 12 years of screaming at the top of your lungs everyday that his voice would be somewhat damaged and his screaming would be effected, but to me I don’t think his screaming has been effected in the slightest, and if it has it’s been for the better. Stephen Richards is flawless on “Plead the Fifth”, absolutely flawless.
Taproot in prior efforts have tackled issues that most “Nu Metal” bands did, abandonment, selfishness, perseverance and heartless whores. In fact, Stephen Richards once mentioned in an interview a Taproot drinking game where every time they said “me”, “mine”, or “I” you would take a sip of your beer. On “Plead the Fifth” however Taproot seem to have taken a more storytelling approach to their lyrics. Sans the lead single “Fractured (everything I said is true)”, none of the songs really have clear meanings. “Fractured” seems to tackle a bad relationship where two people used each other. “Stolage” seems to be Taproot’s take on the U.S. financial crisis. “Trophi Wifi” to me comes off as a song about a women being the object of a man’s obsessions. These songs show a matured Taproot, who have moved past song about their parents, and girls screwing them over and are now coming into their own as story tellers and poets.
This is the second Taproot album in a row produced by Tim Patalan. Tim first joined forces with the band when they recorded 2008’s “Out Long Road Home” and returned for this album, which was recorded just ten minutes from lead singer Stephen Richards’ home in Michigan. Tim seems to have brought the sonic best out of Taproot. Overlapping vocals have always been a main complaint of mine about taproot’s past albums. Tim seems to have largely removed this from Taproot’s repertoire. The main thing that I’ve noticed about Taproot’s albums since working with Mr. Patalan is that he seems to get the best out of Stephen Richard’s performance. The vocals have improved great in my opinion in the past two albums, and anybody that’s hear Taproot before 2008 knows that really says something. I was sceptical when Tim was first announced as producing the past two Taproot albums, but he proved me wrong. I for one hope Taproot never stop working with him.
Stand out tracks: “Fracture (everything I said was true)”, “Stolage”, and “91lost”
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