It's not hard to figure out what "Gentleman" Jesse Smith is getting at with the cover art for his self-titled full-length on Douche Master Records.
His position behind the camera mimics the cover of Elvis Costello's 1978 LP, This Year's Model. But whereas Costello's money shot was a swan dive into the lean, punk sound around which he had previously kowtowed, Smith's record takes an equal but opposite plunge into power pop.
When Gentleman Jesse and His Men debuted with the "I Don't Want to Know" 7-inch in 2006, the release was an instant hit with the record-buying underground. With just one song the Carbonas' guitarist reinvented himself as a writer of more than just reactionary punk fodder.
After two years the proper full-length follows up on the promises of Smith's first single with poise and aplomb. If "I Don't Want to Know" was the big bang for Gentleman Jesse, the full-length is a giant leap into an expanding pop universe.
Although no song on the record carries the sting of "I Don't Want to Know," numbers such as "Black Hole" and "All I Need Tonight (Is You)" establish a benchmark for pop craftsmanship. Smith plows through metaphors and sentimental references that rely more on hooks than anything else. "If I Can See You (You're Too Close to Me)" and a cover of the Equals' song, "I Get So Excited," are jittery pop mantras that merge equal parts '70s Brit invasion and Ramones-style bubble-gum love songs.
Smith's songs are cut from the cloth of rock and pop traditions that polish self-effacing lyrics with timeless pop hooks that are driven by jangle and catharsis.
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