One glance at the cover of Gentleman Jesse’s self-titled debut explains exactly what you’re going to get: A mock-up of Elvis Costello’s 1978 release, This Year’s Model. That’s right, Gentleman Jesse Smith, along with His Men, is following in the tradition of the Stiff Records crew of the late ’70s, delivering short and smart pub rock with a hint of punk snarl thrown in for good measure.
Actually, Jesse’s album has a lot more in common with Rockpile, the contemporaneous pub-rock supergroup led by Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds, than it does with Costello’s early work. The songs, which are invariably based on the old familiar 1-4-5 chord progression, rock along affably; the Chuck Berry derived guitar leads arrive exactly where they’re expected; harmonies come in just right on the choruses; and the tracks are delivered with taste and aplomb. So the album is certainly pleasant enough. But the band is too predictable, and the end result is a selection of songs that would sound great in a smoky club but just aren’t that memorable in the long run. The band shows promise. But I keep thinking they should have titled the album Seconds of Pleasure.