Seven Simons – Post

Athens, Georgia was fertile musical ground in the 1980s. Looking beyond the biggest names – R.E.M., the B-52s, Pylon and (briefly) Matthew Sweet – one could discover a vibrant music scene. Some of it was chronicled in Tony Gayton’s 1987 documentary, Athens, GA: Inside/Out. But even that film didn’t cover all the worthy music coming out of the college town.

It would be easy to lump Seven Simons in as also-rans. They released two albums – 1988’s Clockwork and Four Twenty-Four in 1991. But despite some solid indie cred – the first album was released on R.E.M. manager Jefferson Holt’s Dog Gone Records, and the second came out on then-hip indie label TVT – neither record made a dent in the musical marketplace.

Despite some important breaks – they toured, opening for hot acts like The Fixx and A Flock of Seagulls – the Seven Simons lineup changed. Nathan Webb (vocals) and guitarist Keith Joyner were the only holdovers between the first and second record. And when Four Twenty-Four flopped, the band lost its following.

But prior to calling it a day, the group cut a dozen songs at Don McCollister’s Nickel & Dime Studios in the Avondale Estates neighborhood of Atlanta. Soon thereafter, Joyner landed a touring gig with The The, filling the spot recently vacated by Johnny Marr; Webb got married, started a family and left music altogether.

Yet the unfinished business of those unreleased recordings beckoned. When Joyner and Webb reconnected around 2013, they found that their musical connection remained strong. Enlisting the aid of both of Seven Simons’ rhythm sections, they cut three new songs. Those three new tracks open Post, the first new Seven Simons album in 25 years.

Of those three cuts, “Rhyme of Fallen Leaves” (made with the Clockwork lineup) is closest in spirit to Seven Simons’ ’80s material, with a memorable and chiming guitar figure serving as a counterpoint to Webb’s melancholy yet assured vocals.

The remainder of Post’s 18 tracks were cut either between the two original albums, or during the Nickel & Dime sessions. The most notable contrast between these older tracks and current-day Seven Simons is Webb’s voice: on the older tracks, the British-flavored mannerisms of his vocals strongly evoke Echo & the Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch, with a dash of Duran Duran’s Simon LeBon.

There’s nothing in the previously-unreleased tracks on Post – writing, arrangement, production – that provides easy answers as to why Seven Simons didn’t find more success. The hooks are numerous, the songwriting is solid, the musicianship – especially Joyner’s lead guitar work – is inventive without being showy, and the production aesthetic is less dated than much of what came out of that era.

Joyner’s guitar heroics do occasionally call to mind other trendy bands of the day, but they’ve aged quite well. Once could easily compile a mixtape of the best “college rock” of the late 1980s and slip several songs off Post into the mix, and few would notice anything amiss.

Seven Simons