Not a record for the Ezralites
asouthernthing | United States | 05/16/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"It's been four years since Before The Robots was released, so most Ezralites have been waiting on pins and needles for Paper Empire to be released. We should have kept waiting for something with quality.
Here's the problem - based on the number of songs that Kevin Griffin has written with other artists that ended up on the record, and the surprising number (for BTE) of session musicians that ended up in the liner notes, this seems more like a KG solo record attempt than it does an actual Better Than Ezra album.
In fact, "Absolutely Still," "Just One Day," "All In," and "Fit" are all confirmed to be songs that Kevin has helped other artists develop. (In the case of "Fit," please check out the Jeremy Lister version if you want to hear this love song with actual passion and emotion.) In addition, there's also a huge number of cowriters on this record - if you know BTE, you know how unusual this is. I can only recall two occasions where Kevin Griffin has shared cowriting space on BTE records in the past - once on Deluxe's "Heaven" and once on "It's Only Natural" from Before The Robots.
There are very few songs that are even listenable on this record, and even then they are not what I would call songs we'd expect from BTE. "Black Light" and "The Loveless" are insanely catchy and are the only redeemable qualities of this record. "Wounded," while not as exciting, is a solid song. "Nightclubbing," while not a favorite or even a really good song, is so hilarious and over the top that I have to listen to it.
Look, no Ezralite is saying that BTE isn't supposed to grow or change. After more than twenty years as a band, we expect progression on each record. We don't expect regression. I've been an Ezralite since I was thirteen years old and "At the Stars" changed my life, and I've been hard-pressed to say a bad word about them since. From a quality standpoint, this record resembles the subpar quality of the Closer CD, which was the real low point in the BTE discography. Until now.
I hope that BTE hears the fans and gets back in touch with their roots, or breaks up - I realize there's never going to be another How Does Your Garden Grow? or Friction, Baby, but as a fan, I expect my favorite band to at least put forth an effort. It's just not apparent here, and there's no point in continuing on if we're going to get a record full of carbon-copies of "A Lifetime.""
I LOVE IT!
D. Webb | Greenville, NC | 05/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Paper Empire is Better Than Ezra's strongest effort to date, blending what worked best on each previous record. Songs like "Nightclubbing" bring back some of the rawness of How Does Your Garden Grow? while the ballads fit right in with the best on Before the Robots and Closer. But most importantly, to me, the fun pop songs from Closer are represented with "All In" and "Hell No!" on Paper Empire.
Bringing the heat with what I consider a more "recent" sound for radio are "Absolutely Still", "Wounded" and "Turn up the Bright Lights". Some tracks seem destined for movie soundtracks and television such as "Fit", "I Just Knew", and "Just One Day" - they just have a great emotional feel.
Don't hesitate to purchase this album if you are a fan of any of their previous works. For those of you new to BTE, you can't go wrong with this one!"
Better Than Nothing
J. Pate | Northport, AL | 07/11/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
""Letdown" is a good word for this album. For me, "Paper Empire" was going to go one of two ways: 1. It was going to build on "Closer" and "Before the Robots" by successfully balancing pop, rock and experimental songs that blend well on the same album...and maybe (hopefully) even take it to the next level. 2. It was going to reveal that BTE is no longer a band and is instead now at the mercy of Kevin Griffin's ever-decreasing ability to craft songs that BTE fans actually want to hear. Unfortunately, it went with #2. That's not to say that this album doesn't contain some good songs, because it does. Several of the songs are very good, but there is a "B-side" feeling to almost all of them which make you wonder where all of their GREAT ideas went.
There isn't a single song that made me want to push "rewind" and hear it again before I moved onto the next one (that happened a LOT during their last two offerings). With each song, I listened eagerly and closely, desperately wanting (no pun intended) to hear something that would make me say, "THIS is my new jam!" Didn't happen. One of my favorite things about this band has always been that they never seemed to get comfortable or lazy within any given album. This one feels comfortable and lazy. The songs that try to "mix things up" ("All In", "Nightclubbing", etc.) just aren't that good. I was left with the feeling of "what was THAT???" after those songs instead of the feeling of "well THAT was an interesting song to put on the album...I think I like it!" I think that if this is their best effort, they're done. It pains me to say it, but it's true.
I love BTE and getting this CD at this point in their career is a gift, period...but I'm afraid I won't have very high expectations for them from now on. Please prove me wrong next time, guys."