Better Than Ezra has found their groove. Lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Kevin Griffin has been writing about broken hearts and seizing the day for over 15 years and on the band’s latest “Paper Empire,” Griffin takes his formula and runs with it with little variation.
The opening track and lead single, “Absolutely Still” (co-written by Val Emmich) has the band at their alt-rock best, while Griffin emotes about “an empty feeling that I never want to fill” and how “every door I shut leaded me to you.”
Giffin’s songwriting on “Just One Day,” gets quite generic with a chorus that asks “What would you do/ What would you say/ If everyone you loved came back/ for just one day.” “All In” and “Turn Up the Bright Lights” also follow the Better Than Ezra formula of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus and then occasionally end with the first lines of the song. Every BTE album has at least one lighter-waving ballad as well and “Hey Love” fits that bill perfectly.
The only real deviations are the two best tracks. The electro- and saxophone-infused “Nightclubbing” woke me up and made me remember BTE at it’s best; back in the late 90’s and early 00’s when they released the experimental “How Does Your Garden Grow?” and the near perfect “Closer.” The anthemic rocker “Hell No!” has Griffin unnecessarily auto-tuning the verses, but once the chorus smacks you around, then all is forgiven.
“Paper Empire” may not win over more fans for Better Than Ezra. But they already have their core group of fans, which I have been a part of since their debut "Deluxe." And for us, this album will fit right in with the rest of our BTE albums.