Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Paul Messis - Songs Of Our Times


Third album from the garage punk outsider! 12 new tunes on a 12” piece of plastic!


Paul Messis is a man who knows how to achieve a biting guitar tone. As a student and aficionado of '60s US garage-punk, his attempts at re-capturing the sounds made by mid-west teens in thrall to British Invasion bands are pretty much unrivalled. Whether it's a biting bridge pick-up lead break, a Byrdsian 12-string chime, or a fuzz-guitar motif inspired by a copy of a copy of The Rolling Stones' 'Satisfaction', Messis seems to nail it each time. More than the sounds though it's the spirit of those records he captures. That sense of being at odds with the mores and prevailing attitudes of the times.

So much for the sonics and spirit then but what of the subject matter? As we've come to expect from Messis there's a similarly biting lyrical barb that permeates this album. An attack on apathy here, a shot at governmental failings there, and expressions of disappointment in society's mores throughout. He's no killjoy though. Such pessimism merely point out that Messis believes in a better world and much like punk rock in '77, his lyrics call for more care and compassion, beginning on a one-to-one level and resonating throughout the wider world.

A hippy in garage-punk clothing? Perhaps not but it's clear Messis believes in the power of music to voice something, be it inner pain, critical diatribes against those in power, or day-to-day dissatisfaction. At the heart of this is a desire for communion and community. It's a thread that's present in all Messis' solo output as well as in the records he's made as a member of home-counties bile-punk band The Suburban Homes.

There's more to this LP though. Evidence of more mellow and nuanced sounds than we've previously heard on his solo LPs. 'Apathy's Calling', which closes side one of the LP's vinyl version has a more reflective and folksy vibe. A possible pointer to music he may make in the future, and proof that he's as adept at introspection as he is at protest. Other highlights include 'The Ballad Of A Strange Cat' which contains a neat autobiographical twist, and 'Mainstream Lifestyle Blues' where he channels his inner-Dylan and goes for that thin wild mercury sound. 'Don't follow The Man' also branches out into raga-psych territory.

Aside from his solo work and The Suburban Homes Messis continues to run the small but perfectly formed Market Square Records, specialising in limited edition 7” singles. He's also a member of The Higher State, whose latest album we covered here last year. It's in these solo records that Messis is truly himself though and we're glad he finds the time to make them. 

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