If you’re like me you remember seeing the name Jeremy Messersmith around, but you can’t quite place where. Well this album will be how you remember him from now on, that’s for sure. From start to finish, this critical pop rock album is going to change the way a lot of people see things. Fans of Matthew Thiessen and Relient K are going to fall in love with this album.
“Purple Hearts” starts off with a theatrical musical style that is full of optimistic chord changes. It’s about beginning a relationship that is off to a rough start. But the lyrics are fascinating, layering imagery of the military and awards. It’s not immediately clear the implications, but the song sets the stage for the metaphors of the full album.
The crisp melody on “Monday” is reminiscent of 60s music, no doubt intentionally. There’s a touch of Beatles and Beach Boys in the composition style here. It’s ostensibly about the days of the week, but what makes the song really work is the emotional paradox. It’s about Monday being good, Friday nights a drag. Something is clearly “up” with the storyline, so when he starts talking about the woman who is the main character of the song the listener is intrigued (for good reason).
“All the Cool Girls” keeps up the interesting lyrical choices but there are horns(!) too. There’s definitely no expense spared with the production on this one. “Postmodern Girl” has a calyspo beat and an interesting descriptive, cool vibe. Ironically, the song seems to be about a postmodern girl written with a style that was most popular at the height of modernity. That said, the song has some wonderful lyrical turns about respect and social mores.
“Happy” is an amazing song that really reminds me of the 60s. The composition is just not something you hear in music today, but it would be cool if it was more popular. There’s such real, rich artistry to this one. The vocal work here is out of this world. Not only is this one of my favorite songs on the album, it will easily find its way on my song of the year list.
“Don’t Call It Love” feels like it could have come right off of a John Denver or James Taylor album. The pickin is clean and the lyrics are, again, outstanding. The following “Fast Times in Minnesota” shifts gears a bit, certainly from some of the full band jams earlier on the album. It’s a thoughtful folk pop rock song that fits perfectly with what we love. This is one of the best tracks to compare with Thiessen and the smarmy-but-clever songwriting from that certain mold. Then the song “Jim Bakker” is just hilarious for anyone who is familiar with televangelism. It cuts right to the hypocrisy that many see in that practice. Messersmith channels a critical perspective not of the church, per se, but more so of the wheeling-dealing style of televangelism. The Jerry Lee Lewis moving rock style is perfect for the critique.
“Fireflower” is the song that got Messersmith officially on my radar. It was on my song of the year list from the first listen. It’s really a remarkable composition in the vein of Simon and Garfunkel. The fact that Messersmith can write so well in so many different styles is absolutely stunning to me. The harmonies, the lyrical imagery, and the total production on this song is nothing short of stunning. I can’t get enough of it.
The penultimate “Once You Get To Know Us” has a softer style to it. Of course the lyrics prod the silliness of vapid hospitality. It’s critical of contemporary society in all sorts of ways, but it does so with this romantic string work that makes it easier to take. But you should absolutely pay attention to the dystopian description of life; after the break it’s hilarious and sad all at once. The final track is a Woody Guthrie style folk song “No Superheros” and it’s funny in its own way, too. It makes me wonder what Messersmith would be like in a live show, just him and his guitar telling stories like this.
This is an impressive album that I wish had much more critical attention. Please, please give it a spin and tell everyone about it. This incredible work of art is certainly critical of modern society, but it does so with a wonderful perspective that will make you reflect on your own life. It doesn’t pile on one political perspective; it’s just the kind of art that makes you take stock in how you live your own life and chuckle a bit of nervous laughter often at your own expense. But aside from the lyrics and message, every song on the album is a delight to listen to and some of the harmonies here are going to stick with me for years. This is a gem of an album.