Paul Newman – Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package! Re-evaluate The Songs

3 out of 5

Label: My Pal God

Produced by: Jason Ward (recorded by, mixed by)

A collection of tracks from singles and comps, the self-awaredly named ‘Re-issue!…’ shows a careful hand in its presentation, sequencing the tracks such that it flows like a proper album, and separates out anything that might be too similar, stylistically. However, there’s still something of a divide in the disc, going dropping off after its first half into territory that’s a bit more post-rock typical, or experimental; overall, depending on what your entrypoint for Paul Newman was might determine which part of the set works best.

For me, I started in with My Pal God’s Machine is Not Broken, which favored a tight, bass-heavy interplay of post-rock instrumentals, leaning heavily into the latter half of that term: Paul Newman hit harder and faster than a lot of similar acts, without exactly crossing into rocking out. It’s very tight and precise stuff, trimming much of the 8-minute build-up dudes like Tortoise messed around with on early works for exacting and peppy compositions of amazing drumming (Tony Nozero) and Dianogah double-bass interplay (Edward Robert, Paul Newman). And the opening 5 tracks of Re-issue zoom through that, starting with very similar Machine Is Not Broken-esque tracks and then jumping into PN’s more rarely employed hardcore stylings on the hefty Beeline to Mamou, which open the door to a more aggressive variant of their sound on the following couple tracks.

It’s with the nine minute I Know My Luck Too Well that things shift – this is like an early Tortoise track, and loses some of the “sound” I align with Paul Newman; it’s a less identifiable, typical instrumental 90s post-rock sound. Hereafter the collection skips around some more experimental works that are interesting, but less grabbing (to me) overall, with the final two tracks feeling like rehashes (Clear Baby is another stab at hardcore) or like a lightweight version of the opening tracks’ complexities.