Matt Smith and Outrageous Cherry make crafting a top jam seem so easy: Find a hook, add hand claps, oohs and aahs, then lay down a beat and some words about a woman who’s done you wrong, and top jam. Yet, if writing a pop song was so easy, then every hack with a guitar and a dream would be doing it, right? If writing a pop song was so easy, we certainly would have found the next Beatles by now, right?
There’s something else at work here. Smith has this way with phrasing, deftly dodging the rhythm section when “I Wouldn’t Treat My Enemies the Way You Treat Yourself” picks up some serious steam in the chorus. The tempo, itself, doesn’t undergo a noticeable shift, and there isn’t a dramatic change volume. Nor, is there a screeching guitar solo to signify, “Now, this is where sh*t gets good.” No, that work is left largely to Smith’s lyrical ramble tambles delivered in double time. Lines like, “Call my name/It’s the same one you once knew/Just one more thing you outgrew/You’re so difficult to please/I wouldn’t treat my enemies the way you treat yourself,” wouldn’t sound nearly as pointed if they were properly enunciated or carefully crooned. Similarly, without Smith’s urgent cadence, the song itself would be just another power pop song about a girl to slot in your iTunes playlist between Matthew Sweet and Sloan. Instead, we have top jam.
Universal Malcontents, the ninth album by Detroit’s Outrageous Cherry, is out now on Alive Records. Fans of Sloan, The Apples in Stereo, and pop songs in general, should not sleep on this one.