-Reviewed by Lettie McKie-
‘Shall we slack it off?’ whispers Paul Cree to his musical collaborator Elian Gray in an impromptu start to his launch of the 90 Sick EP. Visible only as shadows behind the projector screen in Roundhouse’s circular hub space the audience know this is only a joke, but as they walk on it sets a lighthearted and conversational tone for the next hour’s performance.
Paul and Elian play four tracks, each of which tell a different story from Paul’s 90s childhood, Paul reciting the poem, Elian playing the understated electronic score in the background. The poems are spoken not rapped but the assonance of the verse and the lilting rhythms of the music complement each other, the tempo and mix of sounds in the music changing to match the twists and turns of the story.
First up is Fun Fax Kid. A poem about Paul and his best friend Rich as 8-year-olds taking down a two-faced kid called Alan who calls them names (Beavis and Butthead), gets them in trouble and sucks up to the class teacher. The story perfectly encapsulates a primary school classroom, the innocent rivalry between three little boys and the small triumph of getting one over on the most annoying kid in the class. Paul’s poems combine stories from his past where the characters and situations are brought to life by his skilled description ‘Alan’s Cress plant looks like an Abstract Van Gogh’ and makes them relevant to the audience by frequent shared cultural references (e.g. anybody who grew up in the 90s knows what I filo fax is).
The next two poems The Colour Orange and None to Run have a shared coming of age theme (‘who is Adam and why has he shoved an Apple down my throat’). The first one focuses on a story where Paul so desperately wants the England football team to win that he wholeheartedly believes Uri Gellar when he broadcasts an orange spot onto television screens asking viewers to touch it and spread ‘positive energy’ that will help the team to victory. Again the poem taps into childhood naivety and the petty concerns that consume us when we’re young. Remembering the struggle to assert independence, Paul describes his need to be ‘amongst my own’, watching the game with his best mate, rather than his family. The poem has a sad ending as he returns home to hear the news of his Granddad being caught up in loyalist riots in Belfast; ‘I tell myself it’s probably best if I don’t mention the score’ the poem ending on a note of reality that chimes in every childhood when external events threaten assumed stability and you are forced to grow up.
None to Run is about getting ready to go out to an Under 18s night. The scene is universal to any 90s child ‘there’s barely any Lynx left’ and personal to Paul ‘Music taste is one weirdness I’m not willing to sacrifice’. Although not much happens in this story, it is evocative of the familiar excitement/nervousness felt by any teenager going out to one of their first parties; will they get drunk? Will they find somebody to snog? It’s a poem that reminds you these things were once dangerous new pleasures and that just the possibility of doing them was unbelievably exciting.
Yea yea, Sick, Yea
In the final poem, Creatine, best mates Paul and Rich are slightly older again (this time at college) and the poem focuses on the painful need to not to lose face in a group of mates. As the two listen to their friends talk a lot of BS about music and cars, all they are brave enough to say is ‘Yea yea, sick, yea’. Paul performed this hilarious poem to a backdrop by Elian which has more of a beat than previous pieces, the tension of the story building with the track. The observational comedy of this poem taps into the need felt by many young men (and girls for that matter) to appear cool and knowledgeable whilst secretly terrified they are about to be found out as neither.
Paul has written an articulate series of personal stories that are very easy to relate to. The poems are nostalgic, laughing at but also relishing the silliness of being young, showing great affection for the characters who are struggling against inexperience and a tide of insecurities. Listen to the 90 Sick EP to raise a rueful smile and remind you of how far (or not) you’ve come.
Sabotage Star Rating: ★★★★