So very many decades after Jerry Lee Lewis first started pounding (and pounding) the ivories, the piano remains kind of a rock’n’roll outlier, in that when I hear rock’n’roll with a piano in it, I tend to think, “Oh, a piano.” This does not happen with a guitar, or a synthesizer. It doesn’t even happen that much for me with a violin these days, which is weird, and another story. A piano changes the texture of rock’n’roll, gives it a non-electrified sound powerful enough to drive the song’s core yet tender enough to offer both chiming atmosphere and melodic nuance.
That said, the piano, while giving “Can’t Get Started” its splashy opening, is hardly the only thing going on within the ensemble-pop sound of The Sharp Things. The most noticeable “ensemble-y” touches here are the various string voices you’ll hear if you listen carefully (some are unorthodox) and the group vocals, an effect that can either be tiresome or brilliant, depending to a good extent on the melody being group-sung. In this case, I love the collective vocals, which are effected with a beautiful, almost whispered restraint that accentuates the coiled energy of the verse melody’s center point—the way it gathers itself each time for that one aspiring, upward leap it takes (0:20, 0:37, et al.). Because of the discipline on display with the group vocals, the couple of moments when the voices break through for a sudden “hey!” are all the more potent.
The Sharp Things are a Brooklyn-based outfit that has often shape-shifted since its founding in the late ’90s, all the while fronted by singer/songwriter Perry Serpa. Currently they do business as a nine-piece band. “Can’t Get Started” is from the album The Truth is Like the Sun, due out later this month. It is the Brooklyn collective’s fifth album. Thanks to The Sharp Things for the MP3.