It can be very interesting to hear a young musician speak of his influences. More interesting are the inevitable comparisons that arise when listening to style and composition, and perhaps most intriguing are the rare artists who have spent so much time listening, studying, and playing that they have developed a sound unique unto themselves. Paul Audia is one of these guitarists. Little bits and fragments at times resemble the techniques and innovations of guitarists like Page, Sayce, and Beck, but really Audia has already developed an instrumental voice of his own.
In Desolation, the Paul Audia Band contributes their first LP to the guitar rock canon. The album is centered around Audia’s abilities both instrumentally and vocally, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a solid collection of compositions sonically fleshed-out with the help of a similarly talented backing band.
Audia wastes no time opening the album with the titular “Desolation” and its funky, full-of-swagger riff. Featuring one of the best refrains of the set, the band fills up the mix on the multi-part song with a variety of different instrumental tones. Showing that he’s more than just a guitarist capable of shredding with the best, Audia displays a desire to extend his songs past the basic blues structures. As much as he can fill up a track with seemingly infinite riffs and licks, on this song, and the album in general, he allows for space to let the music breathe by not over doing it as other players of his caliber might.
Of course, there are some moments of guitar virtuosity. Both “If I Hope” and “Faster Life” rely heavily on some nifty, blistering guitar solos, and if there is an area where there could be room for improvement, it might be in a bit more attention to some of the lyrics, but this is nitpicking. “If I Hope” features an excellent bridge that makes the song interesting and provides a great segue into excellent guitar passages. The pattern of a distinct bridge, and multiple sections punctuated by soloing is a pattern that Audia likes and uses frequently, but the songs are all different enough that this serves as a highlight and perhaps a signature compositional style.
“Midsummer Dream” is a harder version of his song from the “On Your Skin” EP, and is reworked enough to where it is not immediately apparent that they are the same tune. Both cuts are quality songs. “Stand” is an upbeat, radio-ready track and it might be the most accessible selection of the set, as Audia focuses a bit more on the soaring vocals of the chorus and slightly less on guitar. “Invisible Madness” is a darker rocker featuring a solo with one of the more unique guitar tones in recent memory, and by the time the band concludes with “Try to Be Yourself”—another upbeat number— a lot of ground has been covered in just seven songs.
Desolation is definitely a guitar based album for guitar lovers, but there is a lot more in here than just great instrumental prowess. Paul Audia plays confidently without being cocky, and the extensive soloing is tempered by a thoughtful and creative approach. He’s not pushing notes for the sake of it. There is purpose in his playing. At times the lyrics might leave a bit to be desired, but that potential detractor is far overshadowed by a willingness to expand beyond basic blues and a tight band that brings the writing to life. It’s a really good debut LP and it leaves little doubt that the Paul Audia Band will be heard from again.
The Review: 7.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Invisible Madness
The Big Hit
Review by Willie Witten