Taproot were Michigan's most notable addition to the late '90s nu-metal bloom and, thanks to their inclusion on a couple of Ozzfests and tours with the likes of the Deftones, they developed a healthy fan base, both nationally and beyond. The problem with nu-metal, like any other scene, however, is that once the furor wanes, bands face the dilemma of either breaking free of their genre-defining shackles or reproducing the same album again and again. Korn chose the latter and, as a result, are now an abomination. The Deftones decided to move forward and are one of the most interesting metal bands on the current circuit. In a sense, judging by Our Long Road Home, Ann Arbor's Taproot (now, predictably, based in L.A.) learned a lesson from their former tour partners because their new album certainly isn't nu-metal, though it is straight-up, chorus-heavy hard rock.
Their first record for Velvet Hammer, following their departure from Atlantic after three albums, Our Long Road Home is desperately over-produced and polished within an inch of its life. While this will limit its appeal with the serious rockers that some Detroiters pride themselves on being, it may well lead to some serious radio play. Try listening to "As One" without tapping your feet. Or "It's Natural" without swaying your head. "You're Not Home Tonight," meanwhile, might stick in your skull like a dart.
A Taproot fan is one of the least cool things you can be in 2008, particularly, perhaps, in Detroit. Admitting it or — God forbid! — wearing one of their shirts would practically be social suicide in the Old Miami. So let's go out on a limb and really be punk in the purist sense: Taproot's new album is actually pretty good. So there.
Brett Callwood writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.