Hello all! I want to offer you my review of the new record from dynamic pop auteur Paul Smith and The Intimations called “Contradictions.” The album will be released on August 21st via Billingham Records. Paul assembled his ‘Intimations’, Andrew Hodson (drums) from electronic duo Warm Digits and Claire Adams (bass), to help tour his personal solo debut “Margins.” The album also features guest appearances from Prefab Sprout’s Wendy Smith, Silver Fox’s Rachel Lancaster and Field Music’s Peter Brewis. Yours truly was able to gain a preview of the album and I must say I am very impressed. I will not go through the whole album, do not want to spoil it all for you guys. I will, however, go through two songs in detail with my thoughts.
First off we have Break Me Down. This song starts out with a slow pulsing that immediately turns into a poppy beat rock tune. Break Me Down unleashes a burst of energy that is attractive. The vocals come out right away with an urge to tap the foot and bob the head. With the chorus, the listener is hooked on the rock style that flows into the catch of the guitar and keys. I love the guitar solo here that wallows in-between a trippy vibe. The ‘break me down’ chorus line is as infectious as the beats that are perfect for a Friday evening that welcomes the weekend. Gavin DeGraw and O.A.R. fans will like this similar styled tune.
Next we have Coney Island (4th of July). This song starts off with an immediate drumbeat with a hint of keys playing. It sounds like the opening to Dreamgirl by Dave Matthews Band. Vocals come in with Jack White flair supported by a sound similar to The Strokes. All of the echoes and chorus are mellow and capture a feeling of lingering. There is a sense of lethargic tones within. All the while, the listener keeps tapping their foot while relaxing in their lounge chair on a hot summer day. As the song progresses, there is even a dash of R.E.M. thrown into the mix. It is a groovy tune that is excellent.
Wait! I am not done yet! In pairing with this review I was able to also learn about the man himself. Paul was kind enough to share with me his experiences in music. To start, he gave us a glimpse on his beginnings: “I wanted to make my own records as a way of expressing myself and also to enjoy the process. Making things is a basic human impulse, but to extend it into an everyday event is ideal. I’ve loved music all my life and although I’m not a trained musician, I have lots of ideas and an ear for melody. Pop songs are important to me because you can connect with a wide amount of people, but add your own, unique spin on them to make them sound fresh and new.”
Paul has had his fingers in many great musical projects that have been widely successful. I was curious to hear about his favorites. “I’m proud of all of the records I’ve had a part in making. I think a song like Books From Boxes by Maximo Park is a good marriage of romance, melancholy and melody, which is what I’m aiming for a lot of the time. I’m glad I got to make a record with my friend Peter Brewis from Field Music last year. It’s called ‘Frozen By Sight’ and it’s a bit more experimental or austere than the other music I’ve made. I really like adventurous artists like Robert Wyatt, Scott Walker or David Sylvian, where they seem to bend traditional song craft to their own eccentric sensibilities and voices.”
Mr. Smith remains ambitious on future projects as well. “I’d like to make a quiet album, perhaps in collaboration with British folk musicians, as it’s a type of music I love. I did collaborate with the poet Lavinia Greenlaw by adapting her poem Essex Kiss for vocal and banjo, which was definitely along more stripped back, acoustic lines. It was also an honour to work with Wendy Smith from Prefab Sprout on my new album. I love her vocal sound. I would like the listener to approach each release with an open mind and not many preconceptions, but I know that’s not possible!”
As a performer, not all shows are ideal. In fact, many are riddled with complicated results. “I’ve faced a few hostile crowds in my time, but I see it as a challenge to rise towards rather than shrink away. At a Slovakian festival, we seemed to be the odd ones out, as most other bands were foreign metal acts. I went onstage wearing a white tuxedo and talked about the British soap opera Hollyoaks.”
I asked Paul to elaborate more on his views of the music world. “I don’t know much about it. I exist in a bit of a bubble, trying to make good music and to ignore the industrial aspects. Obviously, we live in a digitized society and that’s had a major effect on how people hear your music. A lot of people have potential access to your music, more than ever, in fact, but that also means they have access to everyone else’s music, too, so it can be hard to cut through the crowd. Since people buy less music, artists need to find new ways to make a living, especially if it costs a lot to tour (which it does). I think there’s lots of great music out there, so, in general, music itself is in a healthy state.”
While Paul’s musical plans remain solid, he has other interests that help keep him balanced. “You never know. People may stop being interested in my music, so I might be forced into other areas! I’ve been lucky so far to earn money from playing songs, but if it all ended tomorrow I’d like to write. I feel I can express myself better in print, hence being a lyricist, but I don’t know what I could write about apart from the things I’m already interested in, like music. I like painting, drawing and taking photographs so that would be another area I’d like to explore.”
Influences range from a talented collection of artists for Mr. Smith. “So many, it would be hard to list them. My new solo album, ‘Contradictions,’ has been influence by everyone from Eddie Cochran and The Flamingos to The Lemonheads, Red House Painters and Cocteau Twins. Specific examples include the drum sound on Coney Island (4th of July) mimicking Let’s Dance-era David Bowie or the chord sequence of Before The Perspiration Falls being reminiscent of both The Pretenders and Nirvana! In terms of entertainers, I saw Nick Cave recently and he always blows me away.”
Currently, Paul is busy with the great anticipation of his latest release. “I’m about to embark on a European tour to play the songs from ‘Contradictions’ and I hope to get back to writing with Maximo Park after we’ve done some 10th anniversary shows in winter.” This guy just keeps on moving and will continue to make great music. Give ‘Contradictions’ a listen and purchase it later this month! Better yet, explore Paul Smith’s previous tunes to gather even more excitement. What a perfect breadth of music to celebrate the end of great summer. I love it.