When it’s of a mind to, indie rock at its indiest can get me all a-glimmer with old-time carnival image. When some raggedy-ass hornswaggling four-piece breaks out the autoharps and starts swinging low, sweet chariot, with the mid-tempo antiquity, all I can think of is Geek Love and boys with flippers instead of arms. It’s the impression that I get, nothing more nothing less, and maybe it’s similar to Mae West going to an Alice Cooper show and understanding it immediately as letter-perfect vaudeville.
I’m not snubbing budget bands for being or sounding quaint; if anything it’s praiseworthy. It’s just that I’ve given up on spotting the difference between cliché and the real thing. It sure seems a lot more like the latter in the case of Paper Airplanes. The band hails from Kansas, where my daddy was born and where the waving wheat smells even sweeter than it does in Oklahoma, where I spent my adolescence. Their album Boyhood totally has a corn-fed vibe that jacks up the aforementioned carny shack visuals—they could be happily knocking away at their accordions and banjos on a flatbed truck that moseys thru the dirty hills or better still opening for a flock of bearded ladies and nobody would be the wiser. Play the title track right on through the first 18 seconds of the next song “Appalachia” if you don’t believe me.
Again, this is indie rock at its indiest; there’s a band like Paper Airplanes in every middling town in America, decked out like they’re from Unassumingville with optional facial hair, and while I’ll admit I once walked out on a band because the singer had a ponytail, I really will stick up for this sort of middleweight cheer six days a week and maybe twice on Sundays, if I get up early enough. I doubt the veracity of all the camaraderie and incestuous creativity featured by so many of these humble bands but I don’t dislike it. In almost every case it makes for right good listenin’. In the case of Paper Airplanes, their songs have the airy sweetness of postponed chortles and the ramshackle resourcefulness their name indicates. Very little of it is over-ironic, too: a little-seen thrill on the Sinister Indie Freakshow circuit, to be sure.
Ancient Greeks – The Song Is You
Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump
The Shins – Oh Inverted World