Papa's new album Kick at the Dust is an affront to the burden of modern "culture" and an assertion of personal identity, defined through independent thought rather than a "lifestyle" that's been packaged and sold. It asks, what does it mean to strive for success in a society that disregards your values and the things you cherish most? It questions the very edifices within which we struggle to succeed. It asks us to resist losing ourselves to the cultural glamour that we neither understand nor value, yet make endless sacrifices to attain ("I know what I know, this ain't what we chose, but still it's hard to let it go," vocalist and drummer Darren Weiss sings on "Hold On"). And it asks that we look more carefully into the sort of living we buy into and - to the music on the radio - protests, "you don't speak on my behalf."
Over the past five years, the Los Angeles band has seen the ins and outs (and ups and downs) of the entertainment industry – having gone from D.I.Y. to the major leagues with varying woes and successes throughout. Creative partners and childhood friends Darren and bassist Danny Presant now testify through their music that the ideas of "success" mean very little within a system built for a product rather than an artist. In "What Good Is the Night," Weiss asks, "What good is the night, if I can't make it mine?" – what purpose does money, luxury or fame serve if they don't represent the struggle and adversities that make you want to create in the first place?
Kick at the Dust is a line in the sand. It is a resistance and a protest to the pervasive culture that promotes "recognition" as validation, regardless of it's cause or outcome, to be the ultimate gratification. The apex for the young American is fame. But the album is also a celebration, a proclamation of independence. This music is vibrant, electric and bombastic. It's relentless and evocative. Traveling with this new material, Papa has found inspiration in the response to these songs, as fans and strangers alike are moved to dance and feel something new or once forgotten. In this, it is clear that the act and freedom of creation is the ultimate answer to these plaguing features of our society.
There is some satisfaction knowing there have been no missteps, but rather that their experience has been essential to finding that where they once sought to verify their art in contemporary music, they are now proud to stand up and rebel against it. Having forsaken a damned system to self-finance this career-defining LP with producer Shawn Everett (Julian Casablancas, Alabama Shakes, Lucius) is proof of the band's artistic convictions and resolution to create their art their way. But, bigger proof yet, is the vibrant album that they made.