’s last album, 2008’s Our Long Road Home
, found the Michigan quartet moving away from the harsher textures of their earlier records for a more melodic and moody mixture. But with their new disc, Plead the Fifth
, Taproot dive back headfirst into the aggression, resulting in an album that’s only sporadically effective. Rather than feeling like an invigorating return to their roots, Plead the Fifth
too often seems hesitant and calculated.
A Return to Muscular Guitar Tunes
When Taproot hit the scene with 2000’s Gift
, they were a rap-rock
group in the vein of Limp Bizkit
, who were one of rock’s most popular acts at the time. But as the genre lost favor with the masses, Taproot changed their sound to embrace a more alt-metal
aesthetic. Unfortunately, the group couldn’t maintain their commercial momentum, releasing Our Long Road Home
through an independent label. But Taproot took the blow in stride, producing one of their most consistently tuneful collections that stretched them creatively. But on Plead the Fifth
– which, appropriately, is the group’s fifth record – Taproot return to the bulked-up guitars and darker tones of their earlier albums, albeit without the rapping.
A Wonderful Internal Tension
At the album’s best, those raging guitars have a melodic undercurrent to them, creating light and dark elements that have a wonderful internal tension. The slow burn of “911ost” and “Fractured (Everything I Said Was True)” manage the nifty trick of being hummable tunes while still feeling loud and abrasive. What’s ironic about Our Long Road Home was that, despite some of the complaints Taproot’s fans had about its supposedly watered-down sound, it actually was a decently heavy record – it’s just that the band varied their attack to incorporate moodier, quieter elements that made the songs seethe rather than explode. But with Plead the Fifth, Taproot frontman Stephen Richards does away with much of the last album’s musical eclecticism for a more propulsive, straightforward approach.
A Narrow Sonic Scope
Unfortunately, the overriding problem with Plead the Fifth is that its emphasis on harsher, tougher textures feels like a way to compensate for so-so tunes. The album’s narrower sonic scope creates an impression of sameness that carries over the record’s 40-plus minutes. Consequently, Plead the Fifth’s stronger songs are weighed down by similar-sounding tunes clumped around them. Such an approach can have its benefits, making the listener feel like he’s being pummeled with brute force, but Taproot’s songs aren’t uniformly excellent enough to achieve that desired result. What’s more likely to happen is a sense of boredom or repetition.
A Compelling Singer
Plead the Fifth
’s clear shortcomings are even more disappointing considering that Richards remains a compelling singer who can make his feelings resonate with the listener. On the forlorn-but-defiant “No View Is True,” he declares, “I’ve found no religion/But I still have faith,” expressing the sentiments of many lost souls searching for some sort of comfort in the world. And on “Release Me,” Richards sounds like he wants to shed his skin and start fresh. How ironic (and sad) that the song appears on an album that doesn’t seem all that concerned with breaking new ground.
'Plead the Fifth' – Best Tracks:
“Fractured (Everything I Said Was True)”
“No View Is True”
Release date – May 11, 2010
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publicist. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.