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Angels and Insects: P-Roach finds itself competing with heavyweights with the release of 'Infest.'

P-Roach Rising

With 'Infest' CD selling furiously, Papa Roach steps up to the big leagues

By Sarah Quelland

THEY SAY we're often most critical of the ones we love, and that seems to be true for me and Papa Roach. I've seen the band blow the roof off clubs in San Jose, Sacramento, Santa Cruz and San Francisco, and I have been consistently impressed by its strong work ethic and unfailing ability to stir audiences into a pitting frenzy.

I've watched the band's ascent with a mixture of admiration and amazement, and I couldn't be happier for vocalist Coby Dick, guitarist Jerry Horton, bassist Tobin Esperance and drummer Dave Buckner. All those years of vigorous touring and self-promotion landed them a record deal last fall with Dreamworks Records. They've earned this break; no one can say they didn't pay their dues.

But now that Papa Roach has passed the proverbial watermark with national distribution, a cross-country tour, a video on MTV and DreamWorks' deep pockets to back it all up, things are a little different. No longer do I view P-Roach as one of the most commercially viable unsigned bands on the circuit; it has stepped into the ring with heavyweights Korn, Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit. The standards have become considerably higher, and my expectations have risen. Now that Infest is in stores nationally, it's open season.

Don't get me wrong, Infest is an extremely strong debut and fans of P-Roach should be pleased with this final cut. The album is selling like crazy, with 29,500 albums sold the first week alone. According to DreamWorks, P-Roach set a record for the highest-selling debut for a new rock artist ever, but those figures are hard to nail down. Still, Infest debuted at No. 48 on the Billboard charts.

The album starts off big with the anthemic title track that captures some of P-Roach's hyperactive live energy. Then Infest kicks into more familiar territory with the first single, "Last Resort," which got a huge push from local radio stations months before the CD arrived. The eye-catching video, which stars real P-Roach fans in their own homes, has also generated a good buzz on MTV, debuting at No. 7 on MTV's Total Request Live.

Its crazed, action-packed live shows aside, P-Roach's greatest strength is its innate ability to connect with the kids of America. Themes of suicide ("Last Resort"), teen violence ("Dead Cell"), back-stabbing friends ("Snakes"), attention deficit disorder ("Thrown Away") and alcoholism ("Binge") race through the intense album.

The biggest surprise is the new "Between Angels and Insects," a compelling song that explores what P-Roach, with the blunt idealism of youth, sees as the ugly emptiness of consumerism and greed. Pitting himself against the status quo, Dick spits out the lyrics: "Present yourself, press your clothes, comb your hair, clock in/You just can't win, just can't win/When the things you own, own you."

"Revenge" (formerly "Revenge in Japanese") stands out as the strongest commentary on domestic abuse since the Dixie Chicks' "Goodbye Earl" (it should be noted that P-Roach's song was first released on 1998's self-produced 5 Tracks Deep).

While singing "Broken Home," Dick--himself the product of divorce--almost chokes on the lyrics: "I know my mother loves me/But does my father even care?/If I'm sad or angry/You were never ever there." His hurt is tangible, and just as kids relate to Korn frontman Jonathan Davis' pain-fueled fury, they understand Dick's palpable rage.

MUSICALLY, HOWEVER, P-Roach still has some growing up to do. That's not to say the band doesn't have a recognizable sound; Horton's guitar work alone gives the group distinction, particularly in songs like "Revenge," "Last Resort" and "Binge."

But although the hidden track--a retooled, lilting reggae version of "Tightrope" (originally found on the self-released Let 'Em Know)--allows the band to explore new musical territory, some of P-Roach's material sounds to me to be influenced a bit too much by other popular bands. Look for similarities to Green Day's "Brain Stew" in "Last Resort," Limp Bizkit's "Trust?" in "Dead Cell" and System of a Down's "Spiders" in "Between Angels and Insects."

I suspect that P-Roach has plenty of untapped creative musical resources just waiting for the right time to emerge. Right now, it's as though these guys have gone from being the most powerful clique at the top of their eighth-grade class to struggling freshmen in high school.

They're on a new playing field, and they'll have to fight harder than ever to regain their status and maintain respect. Given the high potential for commercial success of this album and the guarantee from DreamWorks for a sophomore follow-up, P-Roach shows every sign of becoming one of the leaders in aggressive rock.

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From the May 18-24, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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