Upon first listen, A Pair Of Honest Men, the debut LP from The Simplifiers sounds more or less like the brainchild of Ned Algrum. Songs with lyrics like “be the will to won’t’s became” and “pulled from flowers all the time” devote themselves to themselves and do little to conjure visions of anything but trite hipsterisms and guy-with-a-guitar wit. But this doesn’t really matter, as you listen and delve deeper into the words and melodies, you begin to find its hidden frailty. “So Broken-Hearted” reads like a 13 year old’s plea to a much older woman, “Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone” not only borrows its title from Ted Leo but also its riff, as the hook (if you can call it that) sounds eerily similar to Alkaline Trio’s “Back To Hell.” The combination does, however, hit hard below the belt and, as Guire yelps behind a wall of acoustic guitar, lines flow into each other like a cold dictation from a dying man. The first side closes with three rather MerseyBeat (or maybe more like rockabilly) songs whose simpleness belies their sadness.
The second half of the album isn’t nearly as rewarding as the first, with a couple throwaways filling out the middle, as “A Hallowed States” and “Upon Your Rounded Shoulders” sound like they were written off the top of the head of the singer – and they were – while “With Your Lips So Close To Mine” borrows so heavily from “This Magic Moment” that a copyright infringement case seems almost necessary.
All in all, A Pair Of Honest Men – which is paired with a novella by, one would think, one of the songwriters – isn’t fantastic, but it’s good enough and raw enough and lo-fi enough to garner a niche audience. Well worth a listen but perhaps not a relisten. Maybe it’s better when taken along with the book.