We have featured the music of Jeremy Messersmith several times here at Of Buckley and Beatles. But this weekend we were finally able to listen to his latest album, The Reluctant Graveyard (2010) in its entirety. From various tracks we had heard and enjoyed via The Current we had an idea of what to expect. But we were still impressed by the way in which the album is constructed and by the clever, image-filled lyrics. We thought it would be a good opportunity to give the album a full review.
The best way to describe Jeremy Messersmith’s sound is to say that he writes like the golden age of Lennon-McCartney and sings like a young Simon and Garfunkel. In particular he seems to have Paul McCartney’s talent for melody and his ability to craft songs about people leading ordinary lives (with a twist). Those are very lofty comparisons, but midway through your first listen of The Reluctant Graveyard you will understand that the comparisons are apt and that he wears the influences very well. But far from setting out to sound like other artists, Messersmith has more than enough personality and flair to make the sound his own.
The Reluctant Graveyard, by our estimation is not a concept album. But its tracks do share a number of dark metaphors. Death, graveyards, disfigurement, marriage, and an uncertain future all feature prominently throughout the album. The impressive thing about this is that they are woven through some of the brightest pop songs around. This is a talent that good songwriters have always had.
The album kicks off with a toe tapping number celebrating the life of a very lazy man. “Lazy Bones” sounds like pure McCartney, with a touch of The Kinks thrown in for good measure. From there he moves on to the story of a bank robber whose resemblance to John Dillinger seems to follow him wherever he goes (“John Dillinger’s Eyes”). “Organ Donor” tells the story of an unfortunate soul plagued with the metaphorical loss of his heart, his spine and his tongue in separate incidents, only to lose his limbs in a very real way. “A Girl, A Boy, and a Graveyard” which we have featured here before is a gorgeous ballad about a couple and their own misgivings about entering into a relationship (after all, the cover depicts a wedding of the dead taking place at a graveyard). “Deathbed Salesman” is the strangely cheery and optimistic banter by a coffin salesman. And the album’s closing track “Tomorrow” wraps up the album with the observation that “some things just can’t wait until tomorrow.”
One of the true highlights of the album is “Violet!,” a story about a bullied little girl finding her strength to get up and fight back. It is a song that will leave you smiling on the inside as the ever-hopeful lyrics cheer Violet on as she clenches her jaw and picks herself up off of the ground.
The Reluctant Graveyard is an album that works well as a whole. Filled with short pop ditties it is an album that is very easy to listen to in one sitting. And then repeat. And repeat again.