Pujol makes music that embraces the time-worn dichotomy of fast and laid-back, music born out of the garage of forefathers long gone. It welds together the bratty attitude of early Replacements, the art-punk leanings of Mission of Burma, the emotional bluntness of Husker Du, the tossed-off hooks of Guided by Voices. The Nashville scene Pujol is entrenched in — a working creative dialogue of small-town punks united by a socially responsible ethos — has produced a number of groups that take lots of direction from the basic building blocks of loud, fast and dumb rock music, guys who picked up where The Stooges left off after Fun House. But on the highly likeable Alive At The Same Time EP, Pujol — led by Daniel Pujol, the frontman of rough-and-tumble bands like Meemaw and Wizardz — has gone the other direction, consolidating that bunch of influences with lively lyricism about love, politics and hanging out.
The whole garage thing has been done before, obviously. Every town has its scene and inevitably gets lauded as “fresh” or “unique” whenever the music press starts paying attention. Pujol’s appeal isn’t their originality but the breathless, enjoyable way their songs quickly come together — on this EP, four songs in under 11 minutes — and move between shuffling Southern hop (“Blue Ox”), laconic slacker rock (“Butterflyknife”), jangly abstraction (“Keeper of Atlantis”) and hoarse, stripped-down tenderness (“Dark Haired Suitor”). By jumping through these identities, Pujol resists rock classification. The closest I can come is calling the lead singer an existential guitar hero, one working out issues through his instrument. Worried about the generational decline of good manners and politeness? Sing about it. Want to tell a girl about the embarrassing way you’ve fallen for her? Sing about it. Bored as shit on a Sunday afternoon? Sing about it. As far as I can tell, the simplest way to describe Pujol’s songs is that they’re about being Pujol.
Fortunately, they’re capable of indirectly singing about the pains of being a twenty-something at heart with enough zest and spirit to avoid coming off as lazy or just plain played-out. It seems uncomplicated, the way Pujol bounces through the effortless catchiness of “Keeper of Atlantis” with sing-songy, flowing lines like “My old flame smoke signs to me/ Like eternal burning Kennedy” and struggles to be heartfelt on “Dark Haired Suitor” where the singer drops metaphors about King Kong and The Jungle Book before coming clean with, “Yes it’s true, I like you/ In a way that’s more than friendly.” They’re putting a more playful spin on life instead of singing about things the same old way. Alive At The Same Time is only four songs long, but each one is knockout.