A chunky, peppy rocker, “Under the Gun” hooks the ear initially with some insouciant time signature manipulation. (Yes, there’s nothing like some insouciant time signature manipulation to brighten the day!) But okay, bear with me as I flail around in an effort to explain. So do you hear that spiraling guitar theme in the introduction (starts around 0:12)? This appears to be in 6/4 time, as does the entire introduction. The song itself, meanwhile, thumps along in standard 4/4 time (initial switchover at 0:23). As you can see, this isn’t a jarring change—the basic rhythmic unit is the same, and the number of beats remains even—but it’s kind of all the more wonderful as a result. You don’t even necessarily register it consciously, but the two extra beats create this ingenious tension because on the one hand it’s freeing and spacious while on the other hand it feels borrowed, evanescent, a passing fancy, maybe an aural illusion. The 6/4 theme recurs a couple of times, including an iteration at 1:53 that leads into an odd little bridge that doesn’t seem to have any time signature at all. Fun!
I don’t think a song that plays so casually and deftly with its rhythm can be anything but well-constructed and compelling. It helps that front man Ross Flournoy (recognize him from the Broken West? maybe?) has one of those comfortable catchy-song tenors, recalling the likes of McCartney and Tilbrook, to name two minor singing/songwriting heroes from days of yore. As with the Broken West, the appeal is in part how familiar the overall sound is, without coming across like a retread. While not as blatantly power poppy as the Broken West could be, “Under the Gun” employs the time-honored power-pop trick of delayed resolution—you want it but don’t get it, in the chorus, at 0:49, but hang on a bit longer and you get it all the more gratifyingly (wait for it) at 1:03 through 1:06.
The Broken West split up, without much chatter, in September 2009. Apex Manor was born as the Pasadena-based Flournoy’s response to an NPR songwriting contest, of all things. Bassist Brian Whelan, also from the Broken West, joins him in the new quartet, along with Adam Vine and Andy Creighton. “Under the Gun” will be on the debut Apex Manor album, The Year of Magical Drinking, slated for a January release on good old Merge Records.