The Primary 5's High Five finds singer/songwriter Paul Quinn in a contemplative mood, questioning whether he should even keep going with this music thing. Although his knack for crafting perfectly sunny pop melodies is still in full bloom, many of these songs, whether about a relationship or his music career, reveal Quinn as a troubled daydream believer always on the verge of packing it all in. On the title track he sings, "Man, if you could only feel, the shadow that is over me. I'm feeling the strain and I don't know what to do." Such fatalistic notions aren't too surprising if you know something about Quinn's time after leaving his post as the drummer for the Scottish rock stalwarts the Teenage Fanclub in 2001. Purportedly, Quinn worked as a mailman in a bid to leave the music biz altogether. It was a sentiment he apparently returned to in 2007 after he parted ways with bandmate Ryan Currie and once again made gestures toward disbanding Primary 5. Thankfully, the daydreamer had a change of heart and plunged headlong into recording High Five. A deeply personal, heartfelt, and musically lush work, High Five builds upon all of Quinn's innate strengths as a melodic pop craftsman while also stretching the admittedly low-key Scot into more sonically expansive and ambitious sounds that bring to mind the moody, baritone guitar soundscapes of Ennio Morricone. Joining Quinn here is guitarist (and former fellow Soup Dragons member) Jim McCulloch who adds much of this spaghetti western twang. Which isn't to say that High Five is all whip cracks and crooked smiles; on the contrary, Quinn mixes in such sleight of hand campiness alongside driving power pop numbers and layered Baroque pop gems. At the center of the album is the pure ode to rock music "Lost and Confused" in which Quinn plays out the meeting between artist and fan. He sings, "Hey man it's so good to meet you. I love your records. I love your songs. I feel like I have always known you." And continues, "You are the sun. You are the moon. I love the things you do. Or, is this an excuse?" The implication is that no matter how amazing the music is, no matter how much it means to you at that moment, somebody is probably wasting their time. And as the song drives on with Quinn's insistent catchy hook you begin to wonder if he's talking to himself. And yet, High Five is anything but a waste of time. In fact, Quinn is a master of stopping time in the way only great pop songwriters can with a melody that grabs your lips or a harmony that tugs at your guts and gives you goose bumps and a lyric that defines exactly the way you feel right now and again. If a lot of contemporary pop music is leaden, fabricated product that can make you forget why you ever liked music in the first place, Quinn's High Five is a deeply affirmative, hand on the back reminder of why a well-constructed pop song with a hook and a simple truthful message is perhaps all you ever need.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar