The Big Book of Sad Songs, Vol. 1
Now — I am speaking to you very genuinely, so please do not look for sarcasm or — worse — irony in what I am about to say. Sometimes this CD makes me think it’s possible that Paul Hyde is one of the most greatly underrated songwriters of our times.
It has been 15 years since I last heard from Hyde, which surprises me. I never got to know much of his early band The Payolas, though “Eyes of a Stranger” was, at least, a workable slice of pre-Miami Vice new wave. But his 1987 duo album with ex-Payola Bob Rock, Under The Volcano, was rare and brilliant, full of rich material vigorously performed and skillfully produced. If he or they had recorded another album the next year, I would almost certainly have snatched it up.
However, that is not what happened — Hyde went solo and Rock became a producer of hit records for such acts as Mötley Crüe, among others.
I wish I had heard more of Paul Hyde in the intervening 15 years, but that is at least as much my fault as anybody else’s. Some music lets you be lazy (Eminem, I’m looking at you) and some you have to work to find. Though Hyde let three albums escape in the meanwhile, they do not seem to have gotten a lot of radio play in North America (and I’m not even sure they were all released here). Nevertheless, that is no excuse. I should have worked harder to find Paul Hyde. And so should you.
There is an intimate quality to his work that reaches full flower in the acoustic, stripped down British folk setting it finds here (Robbie Steininger’s guitar and mandola are the only additional instruments to Hyde’s vocals and guitar). But this was audible too in his rock work of the past, as well as something of the character of a singalong, in the best possible sense.
In fact, his lyrical voice has something childlike to it, like a more melancholy, less surreal Dr. Seuss writing for “obsolete children” as Seuss called grown-ups, who know too much about the places they’ve been and are licking their wounds: “You were always talking about your empty cup, chances slim to none that it would be filled up, did it start when you were young, with greedy hands or vicious tongue?“
Melodic, bracing and witty, this album arrives just in time for my forthcoming Best of 2002 list. Stick around, Paul — we need you.