I listened to Paul Spring’s debut album, when I could’ve had a V8

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Singer-songwriter Paul Spring’s debut does not have a great deal going for it.

The material is mediocre with fairly routine, flavorless melodies and unimaginative lyrics. Added to which Spring is a pedestrian vocalist with nothing that even comes near a distinct style; and generally strums a plodding guitar, once in a while doing some nice fingerpicking.

The album opens with a short slice of the inane, “Mind of Winter.” He starts out just about yelling, then shifts to a more subdued style, imaginably purporting to be poetically dramatic.  Sensitive. Something special. With the words, “One must of a mind of winter to endure a time of snow.” Whatever the heck that’s supposed to mean. Then, he repeats it. Then, the song is over. It’s definitely I-could’ve-had-a-V8 listening.

“Harmony” is harder still to sit through, since it’s the same listless singing but actual song-length. In pseudo-poetic fashion it drags on, fairly whining, “I saw the sun/ dive in the waves/ to sleep on the floor of the sea/ I swam and I dove down/ To its light/ so I could hear the harmony.”

The cut “Jackson Pollock”—no, it’s not about the painter—is a welcome exception, departing from tedium. The writing for this one is tight, terse melody over bright chords, charged with engaging energy. The lyrics, too, are a considerable step up, leaving pretentious pap on the cutting floor, sweetly stark with a simple, down-to-earth chorus, crooning less with cerebral, navel contemplation and more with honest-to-God feeling. “Oh, no/ Do you think that it’s alright/ If I walk her home/ Tonight.” Sure, that vaguely echoes Jackson Browne’s “Somebody Baby.” Without doubt, though, this cut cuts it. Including the opening: “She sees the world like a Jackson Pollock/ Trying to make a masterpiece out of a mess.” It’s the kind of line a songwriter listens to and says, “Man, only thing wrong with that is I didn’t think of it.” Kudos as well to the band on this one.  Dylan McFarling’s percolating lead guitar, Danny Mittnacht subtly pumping bass, and Jed Anderson snapping on drums, plain and simple, cook. McFarling joins Spring on fine harmonies. There’s no telling whether the rhythm guitar is Spring or McFarling doubling behind himself (no song-by-song credits). Whichever, it works. Bottom line, everybody gets up on the downstroke and never miss a stroke, funkish backbeat driving this thing all the way home.

Paul Spring is one of those albums for which record companies used to be infamous. Some A&R exec would hand off to the suits a killer tune guaranteed to rack up sales, then load the album with feeble filler. Except, these days, singles aren’t quite the marketing tool they once were.