While distinguishing between generic and genius remains an easy task in modern music, wading through the glut of artists that make up the emo/pop-punk/rock triangle has become as difficult as differentiating between fact and fiction in mainstream media. Thank the recording industry for that, as labels both big and small race to sign everyone and anyone in hopes that their “see what sticks” approach pays off.
Paulson might not be in line to inherit the “best five-piece Jersey band since Bon Jovi” crown, yet its new disc Variations demands at least a cursory glance if for no other reason than it showcases the band’s original blend of clever hooks, diverse arrangements and schizophrenic energy.
The disc opens with “Diaryland,” an instrumental track with a Coldplay vibe that escalates on the strength of Paulson’s immaculate harmonies and gives way to the assault of “A Great Pretending”—a standout cut that speaks volumes about Paulson’s capabilities and ambitious approach to its music.
Fans of Paulson likely already own three-fifths of Variations, as the first six tracks were originally released in 2003 as Variations On A Theme. Upon signing to Initial Records, Paulson added four additional tracks to complete the full-length effort. Unfortunately, the strength of the disc is in the originally released material, although new tracks “The Hard Way” and “Optimism Is For Stupid Idiots” earn a B+ for continuity and further diversifying the disc.
No they might not be your mamma’s Jersey band, but then again does anyone really want to wear a crown once stuck in a mane made possible by copious amounts of Aqua Net?