One could never accuse Michigan rockers Taproot of ‘playing it safe’. Firstly, they had the gall to resist becoming one of Fred Durst’s protegés at a time when Mr Limp Bizkit‘s influence in the rock world was seemingly only dwarfed by his ego. They got an answerphone message of abuse for their troubles.
Then, with 2002’s Welcome album they threw a curveball to the nu-metal fanbase they had built up with their first two albums – Something More Than Nothing and Gift – by chucking in heaps of minor key harmonies – la Alice In Chains and taking most songs along an almost ad infinitum loud-soft-loud-soft-loud-soft route.
And now we have Blue-Sky Research, where Taproot juxtapose more metallic-flavoured nuggets with tracks that are blatantly radio-friendlier than before. In doing so, they will probably wave goodbye to anyone who didn’t get on with Welcome’s light and shade, but undoubtedly open themselves up to a whole new alternative rock audience.
As mentioned, there are still shards of metal here and there’s no questioning that Taproot know how to do the business with the heavy stuff. I Will Not Fall For You starts where Welcome left off with swathes of grandiose guitar opening before it settles into a more laid-back verse and then a thundering, maelstrom of a chorus.
Facepeeler is another quality bruiser-with-melody, while the closing duo of Nightmare and Blue-Sky Research/What’s Left are thrashy, intense and will float the boat of anyone with a penchant for early Deftones.
However, heaviness is not the core of Blue-Sky Research. This much is evident as early as track two, Violent Seas – a catchy and memorable alt-rock number that sounds like Smashing Pumpkins in one of their better moments, only with a vocalist who can actually sing rather than whine android-fashion. Hang on, is that a “B. Corgan” on the credits for this song? Suddenly, it all makes sense…
Although the smooth-headed one officially only co-wrote two other tracks, his influence pervades, with an altogether more indie-rock take on the likes of Birthday, April Suits, Lost In The Woods and So Eager. The surprise is that, with the exception of the overly anodyne Promise, it works and proves that Taproot are as adept at mixing it up with the Foo Fighters and Incubus-es (or is that Incubi) of this world as they are with their louder cousins.
Depending on your point of view, Blue-Sky Research will either come across as hopelessly unfocused or else one of the more ambitious and versatile rock albums to emerge for quite a while. With the consistent strength of the tunes here, I lean towards the latter.