Simple is being pushed as Nightmare & The Cat’s breakout album and it’s not hard to hear why. Despite a few dull spots and the medium-thick film of sentimentality clinging to its surface, Simple is a solid 48 minutes of music the sort of poppy, energetic record that you can wrap around your finger. These songs might be camp curiosities for us, but some seventeen year old who has only ever listened to Christian rock will have their summer defined by this album, and it will stick with them for the rest of their life. That’s a big deal.
As one first drops the needle on Simple, they might detect a hint of Muse, which brings with it a hint of Queen. (Queen is to Muse as The Blues Brothers is to The Blues Brothers 2000 after all.) The Gaslight Anthem also springs to mind, not because the band’s sounds are especially similar, but because NM&TC’s nostaligic, doo-woppy style brings to mind the same classic cars and movie screens as Gaslight’s rockabilly riffs.
The postwar-era sense of romance and starry eyed wonder crests with Undercover, the album’s fourth track and unchallenged centerpiece. Undercover tells a story of love that falls just short of forbidden, invoking that sense of mischief known only to smirking seventeen year olds. It simultaneously stands out from and elevates the rest of the album.
The rest of the Simple does as good a job as it can following Undercover without matching it, then briefly crosses a line and becomes so syrupy on that it’s a little nauseating. It’s worth noting that the band is actually better when they try to be more tight and theatrical. Their attempts at more stripped down songs come off as a little forced where the over the top stuff works like gangbusters. On a few later riffs it’s easy to hear where the band worked with Eric Valentine, a former Queens of the Stone Age and All American Rejects co-conspirator. The guitar rumbles dinosaur-like across the track as lead singer Django Stewart chants, “Xs on your eyes! Xs on your eyes!” with a hint of menace.
Undercover is a teen anthem that would sound at home pounding from the speakers of some midwestern Hot Topic. Mae is a folk-infused, experimental tangent. Its title track is… Well, the title track still sort of sounds like Muse, but that’s not such a bad thing. All in all, Simple is anything but.
Oddly enough, Gary Basemen (Creator of Cranium-remember Cranium?) has taken on the role of Andy Warhol to NM&TC’s Velvet Underground, even appearing in the video for Blackbird Smile. Basemen’s website describes his work as “adorably perverse, humorously playful and dark, childlike but often with adult themes.” Could the same be the case for his protégés? NM&TC’s thin candy shell only cracks a few times throughout Simple, but it will be interesting to see if we catch a glimpse of the darkness below in the future.