At first the name Paul Cusick did not ring a bell, than I found out he spend his time playing guitar in Peter Gabriel's band and in some lesser known bands. After reading my colleague's review of his first album Focal Point (see review) and after listening to Paul's latest CD P'dice I will have to find his debut as well. As a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist everything on the album is played by Paul himself with the exception of the drums. A very positive point is that Paul did not decide to use programmed drums but asked two drummers of flesh and blood to play the drums for his new album.
The first song completely sets me in the wrong direction. When I listen to Everything the first thing that come to mind is melodic rock from the United States. Paul's voice sounds as Night Rangers's Jack Blades and the song has hunches of the aforementioned band and Jack Blades cooperation with Styx's Tommy Shaw in their band Shaw Blades. A bit strange to hear this but certainly not a bad song where in the end the melodic rock slightly turns towards progressive rock. On God, Paper, Scissors you hear the influences my colleague referred to when he reviewed Paul's debut album, namely Porcupine Tree. Coincidence that the drummer on this song is Gavin Harrison? I don't think so, Paul's music already had a lot of Porcupine Tree influence on the previous album, he only was so lucky to have Gavin play on three songs and his significant type of drumming will always be linked to Porcupine Tree I guess. Besides Gavin, Paul also invited another impressive drum monster to play on P'dice, namely Marco Minnemann, so regarding the drums on this album, that should be and is more than OK. Listen to the over eleven and a half minute song Borderlines, where Paul's strong and emotional vocals are perfectly in balance with the guitars, drums and guitar lines. Here the Porcupine Tree influences are taken over by Blackfield, another Steven Wilson production. Mainly because Paul's voice has more of Aviv Geffen than it has of Steven Wilson. A brilliant spacey guitar solo will connect you to the internet and after a powerful part, the music flows back to the main melody to close the song. Soft piano with electronic percussion leads into Tears where Paul shows how an emotional ballad should sound like. A slightly dark voice, combined with a flowing guitar in the vein of Dave Gilmour, gently turn into a more up tempo song where the power also builds up to a cool crescendo. You Know originally was released as a CD single but appears here in its full glory. Marco lays down a cool Blackfield like drum pattern before the power kicks in and turns the song more into an alternative song with a progressive touch. Paul's vocals seem to be able to cover it all, a great addition to the album. Hindsight has again a Blackfield atmosphere, but still has a true sound of its own, a perfect way to demonstrate how a piano, an acoustic guitar and superb vocals go together. I noticed that the songs are composed on piano at first, so no surprise Feel This Way has this strong basics of piano. Halfway the song Gavin's trademark drumming and a stunning floating guitar are filling the room with their power, just to softly flow away into the mesmerizing sounds of the beginning of the song. When It Rains was also released as a CD single and gets its full glory on P'dice, slightly electronic percussion and soft vocals are building up and giving the song slightly more power towards the end. When I come to Waiting, the ninth song of the album, I am totally into Paul Cusick. His songs are impressive, surely with some influences of Steven Wilson, but still very Paul Cusick. With his vocals he is able to grab the inner soul of the songs. In Waiting he is accompanied by Sammi Lee, whose voice really adds something to the song, especially in the softer part at the end of the song. The last song on the album is The Human Race, another impressive showcase of keyboards, guitar and a brilliant voice.
With his second album, Paul Cusick did definitely enter the major league of progressive rock and I am sure he will get the recognition he deserves, because P'dice is a brilliant album. Please gather a band and bring us the music on a live stage, in the meantime I will do some searching for the debut album.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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