Dallas, Texas, has a way of pulling people out of the doldrums and pushing them into escape pods headed for some lake-sized parking lot. Crisscrossed with avenues of convenience, the landscape points you toward distractions at every exit. For many troubled Texans, this strip-mall scenery offers purpose through purchase. But it's not doing a damn thing to patch up John Congleton's psychic wounds.
Hence, the Paper Chase. At shows, Congleton fleshes out his neuroses in a catharsis worth witnessing. Filled with the gospel of hurt, he's like a snake-handler, strangling his guitar's neck to the beat of the bass drum as the four band members begin churning energy into a vortex, sharpening their skewers before slashing the rhythms to ribbons.
With every record he puts out, Congleton reinvents Dallas' cosmopolitan imperative as a coat-of-arms for his fiercely personal songwriting. He brings you into his dark places and blows out the candle before you can blink. Tones emerge from pitch black like pairs of glowing eyes, watching you squirm. Burly bass lines deliver the first sucker punch as string arrangements begin circling over panicking pianos. Sprinkling the periphery with found sounds, Congleton lends a Foley artist's touch to the band's distinctly chaotic style.
Though such cavalier methods earned him the reputation of producer extraordinaire, it's Congleton's brutal imagery that makes his soundscapes palpable. Over shrieking tape-loops, he conjures nests of vipers, severed limbs and sinking ships in spirited allegories of love and despair. But even the vengeful doom-rock of 2002's Hide the Kitchen Knives or the orchestrated abuse of God Bless Your Black Heart (2004) couldn't betray the Paper Chase's underlying fragility.
Carving up his psychoses again for Now You Are One of Us, Congleton is preparing to pull you back into the Dallas doldrums with the Texas-sized tornado effect of the Paper Chase. So be sure to duck and cover.