London born lyricist, Paul Robert Thomas, and singer/songwriter, Paul Odiase, have certainly been busy as of late. Forming the collaborative act Les Paul’s, the musicians have recently put out two albums, with a third already in production, as well as talk of a fourth which will add a female vocalist to the mix. One thing these guys can’t be faulted on is their productivity, that much is for sure.
The first of these albums is titled Holy Land Revisited and is difficult to place within any clearly defined musical genre. It’s probably best described as a mix of pop and rock with a penchant for sampling many other styles at various intervals. The level of success the duo meet through this unique method of execution is mixed.
“Sleep Walking Through the Mist” begins with delicate, pleasant instrumentation that is soon joined by deep, throaty vocals. Unfortunately, these vocals can often exist in too great a contrast to the gentle music. “Driving in the Final Nail” continues the easy listening musical approach and sees an improvement in vocalisation. While they do occasionally revert to the coarse tone of the opening track, the harmony is definitely not as difficult here.
“Standing in the Rain” moves on with some exotic sounding guitar work and lyrics that arrive by way of duet. The voices don’t meld as well as they could though, resulting in a noticeable conflict between both each other and the instruments; which is a shame because the cool, exotic execution of the guitars is admirable. This an issue that recurs in the next two tracks. “Seeing Over The Wall” features more pleasant instrumentation, while “The Refugee Song” follows on with an upbeat intro. However, both are characterised by vocals that don’t meld so well with their musical elements, resulting in a sound that feels disjointed.
“Senorita” and “The Man I Used To Be” also unfold rather discordantly. The former is constructed around a high pitched musical effect that is little too taxing. The latter, while beginning more smoothly, eventually looses itself to too many contrasting components.
“Like a Pale Martyr” has a more rousing and complex tune, but showcases a vocal melody that works against the synths that it emphasizes. It’s followed by “Dying to be Reborn” , whose bells and booming drums are hard on the ears. Fortunately though, the closer, “I Will Return” comes as something of a relief. Its slick, fast paced delivery – packed full of synths, electronics and drumbeats – is catchy, and not unlike Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel”. This ends Holy Land Revisited on a high point at least.
The duo’s second album, P.O.P., is a definite improvement over its predecessor, although it’s not immune to falling into some of the same traps. “Banging My Head Against The Wall” is a bright and cheerful opener, featuring improved vocal work. It’s more of a straightforward pop/rock anthem and benefits greatly from the fact. The same is true of its successor, “Better Days”, which is slower and more contemplative. “Camden Town Blues” arrives next, boasting a much better harmonized duet and a jazzy, retro-pop sound.
“Remember” plays up the synths for a busier composition that veers back towards the problems of Holy Land Revisited; particularly in relation to the disparity between its vocal and musical aspects. “Sugar Baby” marches on with a more carefree, relaxed vibe, before “Frustration” sets in with a funky intro that really accentuates the electronics. Unfortunately, it’s another effort that doesn’t work very well.
The next several additions continue to move farther away from the easy listening sound of the first few tacks and back towards the difficulties of the previous album. “LEO” and “My Identity” are overly busy and dissonant entries and while “It’s Been So Long” is relatively reserved, it faces the same issue of incongruous elements.
“In Way Too Deep” heralds a welcome return to the more straightforward approach of the first few tracks. This is also true of “Fat Girls in Skin Tight White Jeans”, with guitars and drums taking precedence during a rock like opening. The vocals and melody work with the music here instead of against it. “Moon Dog Blues” closes the curtain on proceedings then, featuring a tropical, almost reggae like sound, that’s nicely paced.
Overall, P.O.P. is vastly superior to Holy Land Revisited and I would recommend checking it out over the latter. However, as mentioned, it does still have a tendency to echo its predecessor’s shortcomings. I really don’t think Les Paul’s can be shoehorned into any one genre and that can be a good thing, although I don’t think it works to the artists’ advantage in this case. The duo’s strongest pieces are the ones that are focused in a specific direction and show that there is talent to be found here. Unfortunately it more often than not loses itself amid vocals and instruments that seem to combat each other rather than embrace each other’s strengths for the greater good.