These days there are a lot of band names that remind me of Fight Club. "Jack's Broken Heart," "Durden"... and now I can't get the ominous chanting of "his name is Robert Paulson" out of my head. This is a band that isn't afraid to try something new without straying too far from the herd. The opening track, "Diaryland," is a melodic flurry of dark themes and harmonics. It lulls you into a serene mood, which is why you're caught a little bit by surprise by the powerful opening to "A Great Pretending." Paulson's instrumental sound is very distinctive in general, and the vocals often seem to be placed in the background as a supporting act to the instruments.
         There is nothing about the band that is the ideal form of catchy, but it's hard to get sick of any of the songs. Track three, "Convertible," bursts in with some screaming but then returns to the usual Paulson format. What the hell is this format? The vocals are floating, hypnotizing, occasionally charged with energy but mostly a subdued, subtle impact. The guitar is incredibly melodic, intertwining with basslines to create a soothing sound that seems to be gripping you tightly as you listen. The drums are a great feature of the band, conveying an almost tribal feeling that add a lot to the band.
         All the effects are very technical fit in with the band. Paulson is from New Jersey, but it finds ways on every track to set itself apart. "Nightfall" has vocals that seem encircle your head as you are drawn into the irresistible lure of the upbeat basslines.
         None of the tracks on the album are essentially the same. All of the songs give a different idea of the band, and while we can tell it's the same musicians on each track, it's hard to believe they're all from the same recording session. "Most Unfortunate" has the most unusual vocals so far on the album and it helps set the song apart. "My Funny Valentine" starts with heavy drumming to acoustic guitar. "The Hard Way" has guitars that bounce back and forth to an escalating drumbeat that leads you steadily into a relaxed rhythm session.
         Paulson doesn't really fit in with other bands because they can remain so subdued while still condensing so much emotion. It's really impressive what feelings they've learned to put into their music. "The Hard Way" reaches deep down, and the vocals are really epitomized here. "Optimism Is For Stupid Idiots"--these guys have some crazy names--starts, once again, uniquely, and it has some of the best bass guitar work done on the album. The guitars and vocals on this song are a bit more standard for New Jersey bands, but Paulson still does it their own way. "Feast or Famine" is done a bit faster, a bit heavier, than the other tracks.
         The final track, "Convertible (Reprise)," refuses to end the record without outdoing the originality of all the other songs, and while it mostly seems to be a novelty track, it displays Paulson's vibe stripped down.
         Paulson is not a band that everyone is guaranteed to like. But if you've recently been trying to get into the New Jersey scene but with less of the pop aspects and more of the unique stylings of bands like Brazil, then Paulson's CD is golden. It may not be a sure hit, but the band can be proud of what they've written.
R.S. '04
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Initial Records

<< 2) A Great Pretending >>
3) Convertible
4) Nightfall
5) Most Unfortunate
6) My Funny Valentine
7) The Hard Way
8) Optimism Is For Stupid Idiots
9) Feast or Famine
10) Convertible (Reprise)
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