The first album by Chapel Hill trio Simple, 2008's Songs From a Broken Hip, earned its name because songwriter and guitarist Chip Smoak penned the tunes therein while recovering from, as you might have guessed, a broken hip. Is there a more suitable sign of aging? Or, to put it another way, is it any wonder that, only three years later, the central concern of the band's third release—an excellent, self-titled 10-track affair that graces guitars heavy enough for Dinosaur Jr. with sublime melodies—is aging?
"At 35, you take a long, hard look at yourself," sings Smoak at the album's start, distorted guitars curling like smoky haze beneath his existential crisis. "You ask yourself what have I done? And what am I to become?" Then there's "Little Souvenir," a defiant tune that races ahead at a nearly punk pace, as if to protest the wrinkling process by beating it. "What happened to the time? It slipped through my fingers," he stammers. Elsewhere, he swats at hateful misanthropes who waste his energy and gets nostalgic for the less dramatic days of his youth, back when a seven-minutes-in-heaven make-out session was plenty fulfilling for an eager young man.
But Smoak's rock band doesn't sound haggard or worse for their age; rather, they play with the earnestness and enthusiasm of a fresh start. Smoak's growling guitar solos (one of the band's best assets) push against a rhythm section that drives with perfectly and properly simple indiscretion. Make no mistake: This is an indie pop-rock trio for dudes approaching middle age, but they play with the presence of a garage rock band trying to get its start. And on "Tonight"—the epic and organ-touched closer that breaks the general Simple framework by putting the bass first and letting the guitars chime beautifully—we find out why. "We hope our dreams will rise and set us free," Smoak sings. It's like "Don't Stop Believin'," only for an age of recessions and expired hope.