How do you sum up PUJOL in five words or less? Jack White calls them “really, really, highly energetic,” and he’s pretty much spot on. From the music itself to the band’s hyperactive productivity—ten releases in two years across six labels (seven if you count Saddle Creek)—“energetic” is about as accurate as it gets. PUJOL is Daniel Pujol, Nashville’s homegrown garage rock wunderkid, whose last stint at SXSW spurred him into gathering a ragtag group of fellow musicians to put out this most recent effort. Nasty, Brutish, and Short lives up to at least part of its name—the seven breathless tracks are over in eighteen minutes—and showcases Pujol’s control over the genre.
The EP’s title, a part of the best-known phrase from Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, is a subtle nod towards Pujol’s willingness to get all intellectual on your ass. Listen to how he describes the album: “I wanted to stab at making a narrative that would cyclically feed back into itself, oscillating between the individual’s and the cultural lexicon.” Nice. But you won’t find any stuffy academic language here—one of Pujol’s great talents is injecting that thought-provoking material into unashamedly upbeat songs time-traveled straight from the ’60s.
Take “Emotion Chip (No Feeling).” Pujol’s voice growls and twangs (“thing” and “think” become “thang” and “thank”) endearingly; the quiet drums and less-is-more guitar are fairly standard. Yet even as it rocks and rolls along, Pujol’s lyrics reveal a deep conflict: “Well, I’m an animal / body mind and soul / that you cannot control” against “Babe you’re just a brain / ain’t got no feelin’.” But the song never lets go of that pop-rock structure, down to the repeated “My human feelin’!” refrain at the end. Third track “Battles” ends on a similar note: the word “beautiful” propelled skyward as other voices join Pujol’s. As “Tiny Gods (Singularity)” ends, a dial-up modem screeches its own particular solo while previously unassertive guitars suddenly wail into high gear. Inventive details like this draw attention to the band’s willingness to step, however briefly, outside the same old instrumentation.
On penultimate track “Stuff,” we get an earful of the driving honesty behind Pujol’s lyrics: “I must be persistent with what I believe in / if I’m not consistent with what I believe in / then my life’s a lie!” You’ve got to admire the guy for that. There may not be much in the way of novelty here, but as far as rock and roll and surprisingly meditative lyrics go, Nasty, Brutish, and Short brings the goods. With his influences grounded in the classics—the Beatles and the Rolling Stones (not to mention Hobbes)—we can only expect more good things from Daniel Pujol.