by Andrew J. Smithson
When the band formerly known as Jetpack first came to Nashville from Arkansas, they seemed to have their eyes fixed on Weezer, dutifully regurgitating that same nerdy strain of mid-’90s riff-rock. Although much has changed for the reshuffled lineup—now called The Nobility due to some legal squabbles—they’re still not quite what you’d call cavalier. If their new record The Mezzanine is any indication, the interim has seen the band find a new well of inspirational material, including everything from Village Green-era Kinks to Fab-friendly power pop á la Superdrag.
The Mezzanine begins with the shifty title track, which initially recalls the time-honored White Album melody “Blackbird,” before horns settle in and set forth an over-extended, repetitive chorus. It’s kind of misleading as table-setters go, not only for featuring a tuba, but also because the quality of the songs thereafter is exponentially greater.
“Halleluiah Chorus” stays in your head like airplane glue, the joyousness of the song effectively resetting the bar somewhere in the ether. The melody itself suggests a reverence for local heroes The Features, and lead man Sean Williams might as well go ahead and scratch them out a check for that whistled chorus two minutes in. Elsewhere on the record there are the familiarly dizzy, carnival-esque organ sounds to be accounted for, and that is to say nothing of Williams replicating Matthew Pelham’s back-away-from-the-mic-and-shout trick a couple of times for good measure.
But the devil is in the details with pop music, and The Nobility set theirs apart in the studio, taking already well-wrought songs and arranging them with matchingly masterful orchestration. So while “I Refuse” is the kind of snaky, catchy power pop that’s been done to death since before the days of Big Star, it’s seldom been so accomplished and precise. Best of all is “Let Me Hang Around,” marked again by an especially deft and varied instrumentation—it begins by stomping around like Supergrass and ends after wild keys usher in a euphoric steel guitar-led outro that Richard Swift wouldn’t mind calling his own.
Although equally adept at sweeping, lighters-aloft sentimentality (“Angel’s Debut”) and lighter-than-air twee (“Midst of the Park”), The Nobility widen their stride and bury their peers with surety on the more raucous, upbeat numbers. “Skeleton Key” and “Riverboat,” in particular, are right where they live, the latter coming along with such an ear-ticklingly familiar tune that you get the feeling it had to be nicked from something great. As solemn torch-songs go, “Worth Your While” is mesmerizing—perfect for rolling credits that cut to black as the title phrase is repeated, swelling amid a swirl of eerie noise before falling silent.
Given its various and gloriously distilled components, The Mezzanine could easily have been littered with gawky moments of disingenuousness—that it turns out to be quite the opposite is a triumph all on its own. It isn’t thoroughly cohesive, but it is complete in just about any other way you’d want a modern rock ’n’ roll record to be.
Big-picture-wise, it’s pure analog documentation of just how far The Nobility have come artistically since they joined the local ranks, now having seemingly absorbed them. If it manages to find its way around and into enough of the right ears (and it’s difficult to imagine that, in the whiplash of rushing modernity, it wouldn’t have that shot), there’s a lot here to proffer that this quintessentially Nashville indie-pop record could be the sleeper that makes a lot end-of-the-year lists.
Yeah, that was definitely her. Thanks Maloney, every time I tried to google it turned…
needs more candlelight! i like this song.
Are you sure it was Katey Red? I looked her up & what I saw…
Katey Red was said artist. I missed her twice this weekend. I hate myself.