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Monday, 16 January 2012

REVIEW: Paul Cusick - P'Dice [2012]

I was first introduced to Paul Cusick around two years ago when a helpful Facebook advert informed me about his 2009 debut, "Focal Point". After giving it a few digital spins I decided I liked it enough to invest in the CD, which came with a very nice personalised postcard from the man himself. Thing is, I first got into "Focal Point" when I was just starting to properly discover prog, and it was soon after this that I discovered Porcupine Tree. Let it be said that the similarities between "Focal Point" and tracks from Porcupine Tree's "Deadwing" and "Fear of a Blank Planet" albums are more than just coincidences. Don't get me wrong, "Focal Point" was a good album. It just could have featured more in the way of creativity from Paul.

But that was the past. We're now living in the distant future of 2012, and 'Q6' (as he's credited on the cover) has released a second album, and here it sits in my grubby mitts. Right from the off (and as evidenced from the lengthy, ever-so-slightly pretentious description on his website), the tinge of sadness and pessimism which was present on "Focal Point" returns, stronger than ever. Songs this time round deal with various aspects of prejudice, such as religious bigotry, patriotism & war, poverty, among others. However these songs are less personal than they were on "Focal Point", and as a result some of the songs can sound a little detached on the emotional front.

Anyway, this is a prog album. What about the music? The lineup of Paul playing everything but drums, someone else playing drums has remained, but this time Q6 has managed to enlist the help of some more famous drummers than on "Focal Point", namely Marco Minneman and Gavin Harrison. That's right. Gavin. God-damn. Harrison. Of Porcupine Tree. Somehow, and for some reason, Cusick has managed to recruit the drummer of the band he so shamelessly ripped off back in 2009. I can't exactly claim to understand exactly how that deal went down (unless "Paul Cusick" is actually just a pseudonym for another of Steven Wilson's many many side projects), so let's just ignore the technicalities of that and move on. As far as the drum tracks on the album are concerned, Gavin and Marco do a terrific job at giving some of the tracks atmosphere, specifically on "Tears". Coupled with Paul's watery, Gilmour-esque guitar playing, the album as a whole has a great sound and some very good production & mixing work has gone on here. However, the 50-foot giant fly in the ointment here is the singing. Don't get me wrong Paul, I both admire and respect you for aspiring to do absolutely everything on this album yourself (sans drumming), but there are some aspects where you just have to step back and consider whether you're actually doing a good job. Most of the time, Q6's singing on this album sounds rather breathless and flat, which in some cases is the decider between whether a song is good or not (listen to "God, Paper, Scissors", and you'll see what I mean).

Aside from what the rather irritating problems I've mentioned, "P'dice" is still a very solid second effort from Cusick, and is definitely worth a couple of spins. If you liked "Focal Point", you'll like this. If you're unsure or haven't heard "Focal Point", go and listen to that first before deciding whether to buy this or not.


1 comment:

  1. Actually, I think Paul's vocal performance matches the music perfectly, in the best sense of the word. Don't forget to mention the guest singer on ''Waiting'', Sammy Lee: she is giving one of the most memorable vocal performances EVER (in my opinion). In a radio friendly format, this song could make a lasting impact, like Kate Bush (Wurthering Heights) or the sax on Baker Street (Gary Rafferty), it's that good. P'dice is a stunning album from start to finish, especially when you consider it's basically a one man effort (as you rightly wrote) on a close to zero budget. Chapeau!


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