One of the first 45s I loved as a kid was "Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard" by Paul Simon. I spun that on my little brown Westinghouse record player over and over, lifting the needle with an obsessive-compulsive fever. "Gotta hear it again, gotta hear it again..." It's still a record I adore, and just a snatch of those quick strummed guitars in the intro can take me right back.
The opening of Jeremy Fisher's "Scar That Never Heals" awakened the same memory cells. The production sounds like that first Simon solo album. Fisher's voice is more extroverted, but there's something in the sweet, slightly defensive timbre that is completely Simon-ized. And check out this opening couplet: "She's my polyrhythm carrying my heart like a beat / So fast I can't keep up, my prayers sing the melody."
Who uses a word like "polyrhythm" in a song anymore?
Of all the genetic lineages in pop music that deserve to be continued, the Simon--and by extension, Simon & Garfunkel--branch is near the top of the list. And yet oddly, no one, including Simon himself, has carried it through.
I don't mean to say that Jeremy Fisher is simply imitating Paul Simon. His talent is much bigger than that. As the album plays on--from the glass-blown "Jolene" through the catchy single "Cigarette" to the Muscle Shoals gospel of "Fall For Anything" (okay, one tune, "Sula" is like a kid sister of S & G's "Cecilia")--the similarities gradually recede to reveal Fisher to be his own man.
And that man is a deft guitar player, an affecting singer, and a songwriter with a unique take on the world. For example, listen closely to the upbeat "American Girls." The melody is so strong it may distract you from the lyric. What appears initially to be a song about a guy with rotten luck in love is actually a much more serious take on the torture of Abu Ghraib. "American girls walk on me" indeed.
Toronto-based Fisher has released two albums previous in Canada, but this has all the energy and focus of a debut. Thanks to some inventive homemade videos on YouTube, he's starting to get the attention he deserves.
From this album, you get the feeling that Fisher is going to be around for a while. To paraphrase Paul Simon from "Julio"--"He's on his way." • Bill DeMain