Like the tide, Chapel Hill trio Simple is unrelenting. A sturdy thrum of distortion rises and crashes in undulating waves, suggesting ’90s dream pop acts like Luna and the Swirlies for different reasons: Luna for the shapely, glistening hooks that dangle from the soft-hued hum, an azure sky above a waiting sunset; The Swirlies for an undertow of chewy rhythm that tugs at the guitar, reining it in, turning it back on itself. With its shambling, moody grooves, flickering riffs and singer Chip Smoak’s willowy tenor, Simple isn’t in a hurry. Surrender to its buzz-shrouded entreaties and be pulled downstream.
Smoak wrote the album’s songs, as the title Songs from a Broken Hip suggests, while recovering from a broken hip that necessitated his departure from North Elementary. Taking that band’s pop sensibility and plugging it into textured guitar roar, Smoak’s music with Simple carries you with its melodies. The most irresistible track on this nine-song debut is “Make Out,” whose heightened pulse echoes the lyrical excitement, a certain innocence shining over a lithe, churning hook that refuses to let go: “Let’s run those bases/ Let’s touch those places/ Because making out is fun to do,” Smoak sings. There’s the shuffling ode to Boo Radley, “Harper Lee,” and the harmonica-aided “Bad Idea,” featuring a keening rootsy jangle. Again, almost innocently, Smoak sings, “It’s a bad idea, not to let go.”
While Smoak’s guitar washes and melancholy croon are center stage here, Simple wouldn’t move at all were it not for the backbone drummer Eric Hermann (Pleasant, Chest Pains) provides. With the guitar involved in long, tracking shots, Hermann’s steady structure and syncopation provide important nuance and color, making this better than most atmospheric fluff.
Simple releases Songs from a Broken Hip at The Cave Saturday, March 1, at 10 p.m. Betty & the Boys and Schooner’s Reid Johnson open. Barton Carroll (ex-Crooked Fingers) plays the early slot at 7:30 p.m.