The Paper Sons

In the Throes...

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The three musicians in the San Francisco-based rock quartet the Paper Sons -- Phil Pristia (guitar), Fran Dickinson (bass), and Dennis Rodriguez (drums) -- were together for four years before hooking up with singer Tom MCullough, and from the sound of their debut album, In the Throes (which follows the EPs Fine Line [2007] and Underground [2008]) they haven't quite worked out a balance of power between the instrumental and vocal elements of their sound. When a band has this sort of lineup, there can be a tug of war between the players, who come up with riff-based instrumental tracks, and the frontman, expected to add melodies and lyrics on top of them, and that conflict is apparent here, as Pristia, Dickinson, and Rodriguez set up powerful hard rock arrangements that border on heavy metal, then McCullough comes in with his light, soulful tenor and attempts to sing thoughtful lyrics when he can find space between the pummeling drums, throbbing bass runs, and guitar power chords. Where the balance between the two is a little more equal, as on, say, "Take Your Time," the music as a whole benefits. But much of the time, the singer and the musicians seem to be at cross purposes.

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