Review by David Schrimpf
One-man band records have always been interesting to me. Sometimes an artist feels it’s necessary to play every instrument in order to get down on tape the exact sound they hear in their own heads when they write a song. Some have succeeded brilliantly, like Todd Rundgren’s Something/Anything? or Emitt Rhodes’ debut album. Others are nothing more than self-indulgent messes. The first Paul McCartney album and just about anything by Planet P come to mind. So where does Paul Sabo’s attempt fall? Well, somewhere in the middle.
Paul Sabo takes the concept of the one-man band to the extreme. The credits state “All songs written, composed, performed, mastered and produced by Paul Sabo.” Hell, he even gets a credit for art direction and cover photography. In fact, there is nobody else credited for anything anywhere on the album. It’s also a very lengthy album, 15 tracks coming in at almost 77 minutes. This might sound like a three-week long ego trip, but the music is good enough to give Sabo a the benefit of the doubt.
Sabo lists a WIDE variety of influences and indeed, there are many styles of music on this CD. But while everybody will probably like at least one track off this album, I highly doubt that anyone will like everything on it. The songs are that varied and give the album a very schizophrenic feel. For example, Sabo gives us a romping heavy pop tune in “Gimme Gimme” (download), as well as a ’90s Euro-trash dance track in “So Young and Beautiful” (download). He also offers up some power pop, heavy metal, alternative and other styles all in one package. But while Sabo is definitely influenced by an array of other artists, he never really wears his influences on his sleeve. Instead, he gives every style of music his own touch. So while the album sounds almost like a sampler because of all the different styles, it still has a sense of cohesiveness because you can tell it’s the same artist on every track.
I can’t see anywhere on the packaging the name of the label releasing this CD, so I must assume that Sabo took care of that too, pressing it and distributing it himself. It’s quite an accomplishment, but ends up sounding exactly what it is â€” a homemade assembly. I can’t decide if the tracks sound like overproduced demos or unfinished master tracks, they fall somewhere in between. And the cover art (a fuzzy and out-of-focus picture of a crowd of people) only adds a confirmation to this assessment. It’s an interesting picture, but would it be better if it was clearer? (Maybe if I just squint a bit:or adjust the tone controls a little:)
I liked this album, and I think Sabo has a lot of talent and is able to write songs in a myriad of genres. His rock sensibilities are good, and listening to “Just Like You” reminded me of ’70s radio when you might very well hear the latest single by The Who followed by a hit by Gladys Knight and the Pips. But I also think Sabo would benefit by incorporating a few outside opinions that aren’t so close to the material. While none of the instrumental playing is particularly impressive, it’s much more than adequate. Listen to the guitar solo in “Average Girl” (download). It’s indicative of the feel of the entire record. It’s good, but I think it could benefit from a bit of polish.
Recommended for fans of home-grown indie rock that aren’t afraid to listen to many different styles of music. â€”DS