Plays Paper Empire

Better Than Ezra

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Plays Paper Empire Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

If Better Than Ezra can be called anything, it's survivors. Never the flashiest group among the legions of the first wave of post-grunge rockers, they have wound up being perhaps the sturdiest, working steadily with little regard for shifting fashions and trends. Plays Paper Empire is perhaps the strongest evidence that all that hard work pays off, their sturdiest collection of humble rockers and assured ballads yet. Not that Plays Paper Empire is without a wrinkle or two -- even if the tight electronic rhythms of "Nightclubbing" and vocoder on "Hell No!" are meant ironically, they amount to stiff, embarrassing stumbles -- but the group displays a good deal of measured songcraft, whether it's in the peppy singalong "All In" or the sugary pop rush of "Black Light," or the preponderance of ballads and midtempo, radio-ready rock that make up the rest of the album. Again, there's not much that's flashy here, but that's to Better Than Ezra's benefit, as they wind up with a set of solid mainstream rock, the kind which isn't made much in the last days of the 2009s, the kind that proves that there's something to be said for being a workhorse instead of a show horse.

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