There’s a dreaded moment in any conversation when someone uses the phrase “no offence” just before continuing to be mildly or even outright offensive. That same juxtaposition is used to great effect in the titling of an EP in which singer songwriter Paul Nourigat claims to be ‘Slightly Serious’ although on close examination of his lyrics there is a suggestion that behind the humour, and the lyrics are very amusing, there are some very real grains of truth for him. We have an expression that “many a true word is spoken in jest” which is drawn from a Chaucerian turn of phrase from 1390 in which Chaucer wrote “Ful ofte in game a sooth I have herd saye!” which James Joyce combined later with the similar adage “in vino veritas” to create the phrase “in risu veritas” which means “in laughter, truth”. Paul has very much taken this idea to heart with his new EP which he dubs as “Dennis the Menace meets Johnny Cash”.
The four tracks all examine certain things which niggle Paul and which he wanted to draw light hearted attention to; some things obviously niggle him more than others but you’d have to listen to the EP to decide the degree of niggle for him and amusingly to see if you find common ground. The very entertaining second track on the EP, “One More Pair”, pokes innocent fun at his spouse’s passion for shoes and the very real fact that most men will manage to get through all life’s tribulations with 3 or 4 pairs of shoes. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had to gently say to my wife “stand away from the shoes” but it’s taken Paul’s intelligent lyrics to put that into a song and I couldn’t help smiling my way through it.
The EP starts on a more serious note, slightly, with the hard hitting lyrics of “Couth and Truth”, a song that examines the loose relationship with the truth that many online sources have. The weaponization of social media is a very real issue that is currently being dramatized on Channel 4 in the UK in a programme called ‘The Undeclared War’, set in 2024 as the UK and Russia engage in cyber warfare. The complex nature of garnering attention is lyricised by the artist with the opening line of the song, “Tired of hearing peoples’ nasty talk, fighting for attention, they squeal, they grunt, they squawk” and continues to his main gripe that there should be a “little less noise, how about some couth, and it wouldn’t hurt one bit throw in a lot more truth”. Whilst the bluesy rock guitar adds a catchy melody, the underbelly of a very real issue reveals itself with my favourite turn of phrase to describe online trolls, “Satan’s gossip elves” before finishing with the repeated refrain of “a lot more truth”.
The third track “Pressing Snooze” is a track that any one with teenage offspring will understand as it takes a swipe at those 24/7 gamers and streamers that barely lift their backsides from the couch. We are probably the unhealthiest we have ever been as a world despite the greatest understanding we have ever had of nutrition, exercise and mental awareness; the evil that Paul quite rightly draws attention to in this upbeat rocker, in itself a reverse of the lack of motion it describes, is the inexorable move towards seeing inactivity as a badge of honour and going out to work and walk as some kind of failure. ‘Pressing Snooze’ is not a way of life, streaming and gaming is not a job and the fact that we actually have people that describe themselves as professional streamers and gamers is a concern for Paul and I would imagine anybody that would like us to be healthier. He says, “Streaming ain’t a way of life, twenty four seven on the couch, step out and take a walk, you’re gonna lose some of that slouch” . There seems to be a move towards not appreciating that the world around us is not perfect and that we will have to find a way to navigate that for ourselves. Paul sings:
“World’s full of problems, sky’s not always blue, give them cushions a break, time to change up your view, life ain’t waiting, it’s going on outside, you go on now and get after it”; the song concludes with a hugely positive message that “you could be making it instead of watching it, the news”.
This song feels less like a criticism and much more like a man desperate for us to return to the go-getter approach of days gone by and stop hiding behind excuses or dreams that we “might have been a star athlete”. Paul has said the EP is just a little post Covid fun but it’s certainly addressing some of the less favourable things to come out of the lockdown period.
The final track, “Imaginary Genius”, is a Country music style song calling out anybody who thinks they are better than the rest of us and are “smiling but not really there”. It’s a positive track that encourages us to stop thinking that we are over clever and to just be kind instead; I like to think it’s an observation that you never really know who you are meeting or talking to and that we should maybe be more open to personal discovery than trying to be clever and worry more about the person that is standing in front of us than trying to make ourselves look intelligent.
This last track is an intriguing one because Paul Nourigat is relatively new to the music world but not to life and success and so it must have been amusing to observe the reaction he might garner as a musician from people that have no idea of the life that came before. His musical observations are not cruel jibes, they are honest wisdom, passed on with love and kindness in musical form to try to improve things that he sees going wrong. His approach reminds me of one of my favourite pieces of music, Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Wear Sunscreen’, a song that was based on an essay written as a hypothetical commencement speech by columnist Mary Schmich published in 1997 in the Chicago Tribune and originally entitled “advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young”. I don’t think Paul thinks the advice is wasted but I’m sure he feels there is more chance of it getting through in song form and I encourage you to go seek out the EP and make your own mind up.
Find out more about Paul Nourigat and his music online on his official website.