"...a solid funky sound pearl, in an occasional shell of melodic rock. Or how else to describe the smell of aural splendor?"
Karel Segers, Ozzywood Films
Reviewed by Simon Dix-Draper
Pauly J presents a confident demeanor on his front cover. It’s a yellow-green collage that comfortably caters for my little girls scribbles (I thought they were part of the cover art).
He has a message which he states explicitly on the back and in the intro – save the planet, be aware, live sustainably with mutual respect, and do it now. His music is not so straight-forward but way more inviting if you’re up for a ride with limited sign-posts: “we can go anywhere a drum kit, bass, keyboard and a voice given free rein can take us. Throw in some sound effects as the mood and music dictate and we’re away”.
No simple search for a bridge between two choruses for Pauly J, he finds ways to the chorus and ways to avoid it, and different ways to the same chorus. Sometimes it’ll be pretty; and sometimes a little jarring.
But we’ll always return to a familiar sound…it’s drum kit, bass, keyboard after all. And voice, a jazz voice, ‘jazz’ in that style that’s neither warm nor rock, just matter of factly holding the melody and taking a back seat to the music.
The songs are varied in style, a dab of fusion, r’n’b, understated harmonies, ska, oohwah guitar (you’ll know what I mean when you hear it), some rap stylings, and jazz.
And here’s what stands out. Verses in Enigmatics the title track and first song of the album (after the intro) – upbeat in the most part with the voice, cool and considered lamenting an inability to identify the problems of the world, and then the beat slows and a synthesiser takes us “into space”, where we drift to the end of the song which at first listen might as well be infinity without a typical structure to anticipate the end by.
Devour – features the bass upfront, competing with an organ, soaring voices, and in and out several instruments playing around the main organ line, all hinting at the melody or variations – a love song along the lines of “devour me, I’m weak at the knees at the very thought of you”.
No Logic implores take it in your stride don’t look for the great reason why, the grand plan. And I think along the way Pauly J invents harpsichord funk – you be the judge.
Still Got is so sweet it almost fails to engage - a la Steely Dan, but is saved by that voice, and a variety and mass of sounds against the more predictable backdrop.
The The Art of Living features an exploration of his voice, how it can drone, how it can caterwaul, and how high. Its not Idol style. Its driven by the ideas of the song and fits rather than flaunts, conatining the repeated mantra, “the Art of Living, is the Art of dying” and some deep lone bass oriented sounds to accompany the mention of death. Later a “violin” synth leavens the phrase towards the end of the song.
Forgotten Quality has a ska feel, while Sex it Up tries standard r ‘n’ b morphing into a theremin-like eeeeeeee ooooooo. I am alert but not alarmed. Think is a nice finale with a “papa was a rolling stone” inspired bass and lyrically a play around with the known unknowns, you know, I know, who knows of Donald Rumsfeld.
It’s an album with a hundred hummable moments that reveal themselves intermittently, and lyrics that welcome critical engagement. You can respond to its musical and lyrical demands, or you can let it wash over your dinner party with its array of beat-driven pieces.