Friday, August 27, 2010

Joe Pug: Messenger

Joe Pug's 2008 EP Nation of Heat was outstanding, front to back; 2010's Messenger is anything but.  I should have been concerned when, last year, Mr. Pug gave away his In the Meantime EP for free.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't the "free" part that concerned me -- it was the fact that there were no really good songs on it.  In fact, I didn't care much for that EP at all, but I brushed it off, thinking that maybe those were all the songs not good enough to make Nation of Heat.  Untrue.

The biggest difference between Heat and Messenger is that almost every song on Heat has a set of lyrical spiral steps, winding in various directions.  The music is great, but it's just a dude strumming a guitar, so it's the lyrics that shine.  Each song had its own story, its own bit of mystery.  Messenger lacks mystery.  Messenger also feels "bigger" -- which is not, as they say, always better.  His backing band shines on the redux of "Speak Plainly Diana" (I was at that show btw), but for the most part, I miss the sonic simplicity of Heat.

As was the case with Vampire Weekend's Contra, my favorite song from Messenger most resembles the sound and story of the songs on Heat.  "How Good You Are" is not only the best song on this album, it's one of my favorite songs from the year.  Absolutely fantastic; full of mystery and simplicity.  Take a listen:

Grade: C-
Blurb: It's not a terrible album, but it seems (to me) to be a step backward from the amazing tone set by Nation of Heat.


  1. Here's a review of this review:

    Not So Sure?
    Unsophisticated Heart?
    Bury Me Far (From My Uniform)?
    How do you not like these songs?! I weep for your poor soul.
    Your friend,

  2. It's not a terrible album, but it seems (to me) to be a step backward from the amazing tone set by Nation of Heat.

    I never said that I didn't like those songs, but none of those songs are fit to untie the sandals of any of the songs on the Nation of Heat EP (except maybe "Call It What You Will"). You're really going to put those songs head to head against "Hymn 35" or "Hymn 101" or "Nation of Heat"? The songs you listed are the "My Father's Drugs" of that album ... they're fine, but they don't seem to match the level set by "How Good You Are."

  3. Instead of playing song vs. song ... let me ask you this: do you think Messenger is a step forward from his Nation of Heat EP? Does it raise the bar? If you had to choose between them, you'd take Messenger?

    I guess all I'm saying is that I don't think he capitalized or advanced upon anything laid out in his EP (besides "How Good You Are"). I don't think it's a step forward and I don't think it's lateral either; different instrumentation makes me want to lean laterally, but I think, in the larger scope, that Messenger is a lesser work than his EP.