1. Who is the band? What is their history? What motivates them?
“Paul Cusick ( aka Q ), British born multi-instrumentalist, started his solo music career in 2009 with the release of his debut album Focal Point. Previously Paul had spent years as the lead guitarist in several bands (Gabriel, Ripped & Riversea), but in 2008 his new year's resolution was to step out from behind his guitar and concentrate on his own song writing and production skills.” (http://www.paulcusick.co.uk/about.php, 2009).
2. Why did they make this album? What was the passion or message that forced them to produce what they have? Or, simply what was their motivation for the themes they chose for this album?
His own personal challenge to grow and release his own music developed over years.
3. What message are they delivering through their lyrics and music?
1. Focal Point – We begin, where all good keyboardists begin with “chopsticks”. Then synths, keys, drums and guitar take over. One of the best songs on the album. A building guitar, drum and key crescendo, before launching guitars and bass take over. Definitely bringing you to the focal point.
2. Everblue – The second song opens off the first song intro. Slowly plucked single guitar strings then that Coldplay, piano driven, rhythm begins to build with drum support. The eerie synths surrounding the piano, guitar and multiple instruments delivered by this multi – instrumentalist to showcase his talents early. Then the first lyrics are delivered. “Where are all the flowers gone?” “The fields where we once played.” “The grass is green in photographs and now it’s washed away.” The slow decay of the planet. Memories of what once was. What do we have to pass on to our children? “Everblue this we give to you.” “Look the other way just for one more day.” Powerful lyrics delivered with powerful drum, synths, and guitar delivering the immediacy and hopefully inspiring the fear to force us to not look away one more day. The guitar solos are different here than recent neo prog riffs. The drumming is excellent. The synths deliver the eerie effect hoped for. Two strong songs to open this inventive work.
3. Fade Away – After two strong attention grabbing songs, how do you build the rest of the album? Follow them with a deep piano, strings and synth generated epic. Wonderful piano supporting incredible lyrics describing memories of the author’s past childhood and his comparison to the development of his own children and family given today’s realities. “And in my childhood dreams, the world was smaller than it seemed.” “Where are they now?” “My dreams are memories as I grow older they fade away.” I think everyone had that hill, going back to the Beatle’s Fool on the Hill, where we could dream and think about what life would be like in the future. None of us could have predicted it would be like the reality we face today.
4. Soul Words – Drums, synths, strings, and a funky kinda melody – prog - rapping. “Why do we run when there’s nowhere to hide?” “Why don’t we cry when a small child has died?” The loss of feeling around the world in a TV generation that brings life and death to the sets around the world daily.
5. Scared to Dream – Piano and keys bring this to life as one of the saddest songs on the album opens. “I’m scared to dream.” “I hear me scream.” Loneliness and fear. Drums and synths surround this one with occasional guitar launches.
6. Touch – Piano notes, slowly played with spaces in between, before the phone rings and a voice begins…dialing….with piano in between. Like a movie excerpt. “I hear your voice on the answer phone.” A need to talk with someone but there is no answer. Piano and voice. Powerful outreach out for the affection of someone close. Phone sounds, drums, guitars and synths with that eerie effect of loneliness.
7. Senza Tempo – Slow synths and then that traditional launching guitar riff. Strings and synths providing a classical power to support this guitar instrumental.
8. Big Cars – The launching guitar continues from Senza and evolves into a Rush tempo with drums and synths supporting. Driving in the car. Alone, detached from everyone else. Listening to the radio. Definite influence of Rush and Porcupine Tree. Fast driving Red Barchetta fueled song with a different twist. “Ten lanes wide…air con or die…” Alone in a climate controlled environment. An environmentalist way of looking at some of our last freedoms and excesses – the solitude and individuality of the car on our massive freeway systems.
9. Hold On – Opens with the sounds of the TV news and the sound of a helicopter. Then launching guitars, drums and strings. “Despite ourselves we cannot win.” “No magic cream for fragile skin.” We can only protect ourselves for so long. As the environment deteriorates and events beyond our control take away life, try to hold on to what you do have now. It may be gone tomorrow. Closes with that incredible solo piano.
10. Hello – The wonderful sound of a piano and softly played drums in the background. A love song delivered in almost a whisper. “Pull up a chair.” “Let’s talk like we’ve got nowhere to go.” Almost sounds like someone in a hospital with an illness that will not go away.
11. Touch (Grove Monster Mix) – Similar to the original version with more dreamy synth sounds and effects.
4. Does this music improve, change, or add to the genre? What does the listener receive from listening to the music?
There are some similar threads to Porcupine Tree and Rush buried within the melodies, but this is an original work that provides deep, powerful lyrics combined with music that describes clearly, life in our modern world. Describing the ups and downs and many changes evolving through the author and his perspective of the world, from his focal point.
5. Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again?
Rating: 9/10 – Very good piece of music, digging deep into some of the many circumstances that surround modern life. Has the effect of delivering touching and personal lyrics with well orchestrated music. Dramatic music that does get to your focal point and concentrates your attention to the detail.
Reviewed by Prof on October 17th, 2009