The great thing about music is that there was, and always will be (until the inevitable Apocalypse) something for everyone. It’s a cliché, sure. Even the nuttiest most eclectic arguably ridiculous taste in music can find comfort in the presence of experimental comedy jazz or violin metal. The likes of popular comedy rock can be summed up with “Tenacious D,” for the vast majority of people who find greater resonance with Three Days Grace and driveling rock radio post-poster-grunge that has the humorous touch of a cancer patient. Yet comedy music goes further than the vocal croonings of Jack Black. Paper Ceilings is the solo moniker of ‘Jesse.’ The mysterious Jesse litters Paper Ceilings tunes with pop culture references galore and an almost admirable self-awareness of what it takes to be a middling older teen who likes music.
Whether it is the surface enjoyment of J.D Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ or a string of contemporary pseudo folk-rock groups such as Against Me! And Gaslight Anthem, ‘Paper Ceilings’ drops relatable and smile-worthy odes to the climate of the times. Serious Song is just serious enough. The idea is one of gross simplicity- life is fun. Yet underneath the concept of the monkier, you have a condensed sampling of thoughts that seem to plague and simultaneously monitor young people’s lives. The thoughts of the future, such as starting a family, being unemployed, sticking to your guns, not being a failure, etc etc etc… The fact that people think you’re cool and collected, but you’re lost and discovering yourself, my personal favorite.
The songs themselves are harmless, drowning in Whoa whoa chorus’ and distinguishable lyrics about being, in essence, just a regular ass guy.
Lyrically of course, the album is rife with observant references. A Fugazi reunion, as referenced in Thunder Road, would be amazing. The Frank Turner namedrop is excellently crafted, and of course a brief nod to Neil Young is always more than welcome.
The ‘jokes’ aren’t really set-up-punchline styled. What we have in Paper Ceilings is a well crafted snarkiness. A wit that knows it’s limitations in the form of 1 and a half minute folk-pop songs, yet somehow has something to say amidst pop culture references and contemporary fusings on music. The self-titled album isn’t a laugh out loud rollick through comedy heaven, nor is it an introspective study of the American teenager. Yet, in some bizarre and alluring way, the songs seem to blend the idea of introspection with charming humor, for a collection of songs that are so simple yet so well done, they touch on all the perfect notes. “Good Enough” is the prime example- who says you are or aren’t good enough for something? And what that said, who cares- because in some ways- we all pretty much suck.
Life is Hopeless (And That’s Okay) is silly and short. But in the 45 seconds it takes to complete the song, you have a small punch in the gut. Fuck it, we’re just dumb people. Let’s play folk music and sing about fun stuff.
Paper Ceilings manages a quaint balance of life and fun, among acoustic ditties that remain equally charming and exciting in their own effortless way.