There's got to be a better name for Simple: Though the Chapel Hill trio clings to its rock 'n' roll staples—thick bass tones, ragged guitar lines, charging drum work—little else about the music suggests the boorishness, flimsiness or fundamentalism of its moniker. Would lightweights, after all, contemplate their own mortality with reflections on Waterloo and Constantine within a jittery pop song? And would buffoons howl out an anthemic appeal to reading and learning before scowling at corporate obsequy? Or would a band committed only to the basics open its latest EP, WKNC Sessions: 05 April 2009, with an anxious, athletic instrumental (with a shout-out-loud chorus stuck in the middle) that sounds like Television racing through a cover of The Who?
But on this follow-up to last year's Songs from a Broken Hip, Simple manages to do all of that in just five songs. Frontman Chip Smoak brings a perfectly pedestrian voice to these songs, voicing his worries in a way that feels completely candid. On "Signs in the Sky," that history-referencing existential crisis, he slurs the words, drunk on his doubt for his future. And on "Puppet," he howls the incensed chorus like his free will depends on it, an enlightened marionette commanding his peers to join the fight. Drummer Eric Hermann drives every song with a relentless pulse, but his barely there flourishes, like the pitter-patter of hi-hats raining down during "Take My Hand," accent without distracting. Bassist Rodney Merritt explores the extremes of his instrument, too, often floating strained, high pieces of the melody against Smoak's blurred chords and solos. It's power trio music with an ear for nuance.
So, Simple? No way. Complicated? Not so much. Elemental? No super-organic jam band here, bro. Interesting, if not outrageous? A cumbersome handle, but sure.
Simple releases this live EP with a show at Local 506 Friday, Oct. 23, at 10 p.m. Admission is free, and Nathan Oliver and Reid Johnson Schooner open.