Papa Roach – “Last Resort”

Released: 9.18.00

Peak: #57

All dour reserve and sleek surface, the Deftones were the millennial aesthete’s post-grungers of choice. But if “Change (In the House of Flies)” offered putative evidence of life after nu-metal to alt-snobs, to some of us, their low-affect alienation intimated a fate worse than Korn. Since when should teen angst be cool and tasteful? If it can’t be funny (tho it can, right Gerard?), let it at least be awkward.

Papa Roach, they had your awkward. Purged of rampant bully-envy or vulvaphobia, theirs was the message that Art Brut’s Eddie Argos would later distill from his little brother’s record collection: “Why don’t our parents worry about us?”  Jacoby Shaddix, then dba “Coby Dick” was not one for “letting go”–even named the band after a step-grandpa who’d killed himself in ’96. (Just think of the sad showtunes such a fate would have wrung from the Arcade Fire.) But family psychodramas cause real pain, after all, and sometimes rising above just ain’t enough. Sometimes it’s hardly an option.

Not that I’d have fallen for “Last Resort” without an assist from Xzibit. These schlubs, along with the less awkward wimp-to-power advocates Limp Bizkit, were sandwiched between Mr. zbit and Eminem on the Anger Management Tour, and I’ll say one thing for rock–it sure fills a basketball arena. From the first moment their guitars cut through the mid-range vacuum left by the rapper’s bass rumble and high-end chirp, I got it.

“Last Resort” is the great single Ozzy had too many “ideas” to create, a “Suicide Solution” for kids who hadn’t yet given up work on the problem. At the same time, it’s Nirvana minus the punk sheen and jagged poetic obscurity. From its a capella intro, punctured by “Back in Black” chords, through that OCD riff racing up and down, this is the rock equivalent of nervous pacing and nail-biting. As Shaddix splits the diff between rapping and ranting, his lyrics echo from within the depths of a depressive’s lack of perspective, the personalized self-dramatization of a generational problem. And the chorus comes as little more than a release of a tension, reaching out for simple reassurance: “Wish somebody would tell me I’m fine.”

But dudes who can accurately channel adolescent confusion eventually think they can understand it, and these guys were born to misinterpret psychotherapeutic lingo as an excuse for self-pity. Papa Roach got predictably whinier with age, reaching a nadir on the hilarious “Scars”: “My weakness is that I care too much.” (Try that at your next job interview.) They didn’t kill themselves, though. And good for them, seriously.

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