I have to admit I was sort of skeptical about Jon Gorey's Indeed!, based solely on the exclamation point in the album's title. The writer in me had it drilled into her psyche that the punctuation mark used to express anger, excitement and other loud emotions should be used as sparingly as possible. The music fan in me believed that exclamation points tend to appear in pop records by teeny-bopper artists who have huge careers in Japan (Jennifer Love Hewitt's immortal Let's Go Bang! comes to mind). Thankfully, the music on Indeed! has made me reconsider judging Gorey's music based on something so trivial.
Gorey has created 12 songs of feel-good barroom rock, the kind of music that, even when heard for the first time, has an instant pleasing familiarity without seeming derivative. Gorey, a Boston-based singer/songwriter well-traveled on the café/bar circuit, has released two previous albums. But Indeed! is his first studio recording with a full band, and the songs benefit from the lively, expansive sound of the guitar/bass/drums lineup.
Most of Gorey's songs detail complicated romantic entanglements and letdowns, with him pining for someone or looking back with fond sadness over an ended relationship. "La Resistance" is catchy and melodic, amped up by Gorey's ferociously yearning growl on the chorus. "Haunted" has a more sweet, lilting quality, chronicling how Gorey didn't get to express his true feelings to someone who ends up being "one more girl in a song/ one more memory's end." "Goodbye Summertime" sounds sunny and upbeat despite being about another girl that got away. You might think that an album filled with so many songs about lost loves would get maudlin after awhile, but each one has its own individual sound and endearing quality.
The non-romantic songs are more hit-and-miss. "Plight of a 20-Something Would
Be Hero" is not as precious as its title, but it doesn't really distinguish itself
in any memorable way from the hordes of other songs about the aimless confusion
and angst of being in your 20s. "Ambush," a song about someone who teaches you
weird, unsettling facts that sometimes you feel better off not knowing, is darker
than the other songs, with an antagonistic edge. "Gonna get you Bob Thompson" has
to be the weirdest chorus ever to get stuck for days in my brain.
But then there's "The Scarlet Letter." An ode to the twined optimism and disappointment that comes with rooting for a baseball team plagued by "the curse of the Bambino," it perfectly encapsulates the city's unflagging devotion to its beloved Red Sox. The only song on the album recorded from a live performance (not counting the bonus track at the end), it benefits from having an audience's enthusiastic whoop-and-holler response, showing that the song has the potential to be Boston's unofficial summer anthem. The sentimental Irish-tinged violin on the track lends it a timeworn quality, as if the song has been sung and passed down through generations of Gorey's family, the love of the Red Sox a permanent part of their legacy. I can't quite imagine that the New York Yankees, the overachieving Goliath to the Red Sox's David, could inspire something as heartfelt.
Maybe what I initially found strange about an album called Indeed! is not its punctuation, but the name as a whole. It's an expression so straightforwardly cheerful and free of irony that compared to most rock records (which have either clever, enigmatic or pretentious names), Indeed! is almost like seeing a big happy face plastered on the CD cover. But really, that's its greatest appeal. For if an album's title is supposed to reflect the spirit of the music found within, Jon Gorey's songs do so in a refreshingly winsome fashion.