Sophisticated – Paul Cafcae (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

There is something ironic about songs like Sophisticated, at least from a journalistic point off view. Because of the understatement and space that such a song is crafted from, it is actually easier, not to mention more interesting, to write about. Those black clad alt-rockers, indie kids with their complicated hair, punks looking to smash the system via a basic working knowledge of A minor, they might all throw so much into their songs but what comes out is generally a homogenised sonic mess, a stodgy blend of noise blandness. Sophisticated, on the other hand, is well named as it is that room, that ability to hold back which creates the space and it is in those spaces that the interesting stuff happens. It is where you find the drifting atmospherics, those fading sounds at the end of the lyrics, the anticipation for the next note to come. It is where sounds linger and lace around each other, it is where the echoes of the song create new and unexpected resonance and depth.

Generically it is a song which is hard to pitch but then again such things only seem to matter to us lazy journalists, but if you pushed me on the matter I would say that the song exists at a place where gentle blues, classic piano pop and balladic tones all converge, but then songs like this really go beyond genre or style and just feel like part of a small band of tunes that you could label classic and have done with it.

And as the title track of his latest album it is a bit deceptive as the full blown Paul Cafcae experience is a much more musically broad affair.  Opening salvo She’s My Town is built from swing and rock ’n’ roll groove and no small amount of reggae swagger, Wonderful Day sails fairly close to a classic Nirvana riff before heading off down a relaxed rock route and Three Day is a anthemic ballad. Bury Me Not is a strutting, old school blues number, an edgy narrative coupled with a gentle, honky-tonk rhythm and Single Flower in Her Hair equally places Paul’s heart in a golden age of rock’n’ roll.

But it is the title track which is the real selling point, a song which shows that Paul Cafcae knows how to understate, undersell and, most of all, understand music. If the art of great music making is to know what a song needs and when it is finished, to get to the essence of a song and know when it carries just the right amount of sonic weight to do its job, then Sophistication shows that it is an art that he has in no small amount.

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