WHAT: Catch 22 and the Honorary Title
WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday
WHERE: Showplace Theatre, 1063 Grant St.
The Honorary Title is the latest indie-rock duo to rise from the New York open-mic circuit. The band spins melodious pop with hints of Americana, New Wave and even soul. The highlight, however, is singer Jarrod Gorbel's smoldering eyes.
Wait! The highlight is actually Gorbel's voice, which calls to mind that of Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas, only more dynamic and expressive.
The Honorary Title's debut album, "Anything Else but the Truth," was clearly written after a brutal breakup. With his fractured, hyperdescriptive lyrical style, Gorbel drives home themes of self-destruction, estrangement and loneliness.
What keeps it listenable, however, is Gorbel's sense of irony. The title track features the sordid lyrics: "Scraping my cheeks with your passionless lips/From your side of things it's not quite over with" but partners them with upbeat Casio accompaniment, an obnoxious "fa la la" refrain, and -- yes -- hand claps.
Gorbel's humor was in full force as he called from his tour van, on the way to a show in Austin, Texas.
"When I was a kid growing up on Long Island, I was really into Motley Crue, Guns 'n' Roses -- any sleazy band from L.A. that ripped off Aerosmith and Rolling Stones," Gorbel says. "I always thought that that was super-cool."
Gorbel bemoans the demise of hair metal. "What do kids have right now? They have that band Slipknot. Now we have these people with horrific, torn-flesh faces, and middle America is like 'All right!' "
Not until hearing Buffalo folk-rocker Ani DiFranco did Gorbel decide to pursue music as a career. "I discovered Ani though some hippie friends of mine at a more organic time in my life. I'd never seen one person be so intense, and her lyrics are really descriptive. She was awesome."
Gorbel's soul-baring style has earned him comparisons to Chris Carrabbas of Dashboard Confessional.
"We're both skinny, little guys with tattoos that make intense songs and have a little more poetic, lyrical style," concedes Gorbel.
The label "emo," which critics frequently invoke when describing the Honorary Title, has Gorbel scratching his head.
"Most emo kids come from punk-rock roots, an that's not really where I came from," said Gorbel. "If someone were to say, 'Oh, he's emo in the sense that Bono is emo,' then OK. But nobody would ever say Bono is emo, because emo arrived from some sort of melodic punk rock."
"I don't know," he continued. "I see it as we're a struggling band trying to make it, and if emo bands are latching onto it, then OK. If we're emo and I don't have to work a s----- day job, I'm happy."
Not all of "Anything Else but the Truth" is about heartbreak. On the twangy "Cut Short," Gorbel courts a girl with the line, "I just have to say you look so goddamn good, I give you crazy mad props, because I know I should," and later, "We could be like onion and peppers in a sleeping bag fajita."
"That song's supposed to be ridiculous," said Gorbel. "It was written at a time when I was trapped on Long Island, and I just wanted to get (some sex)."
Gorbel uses it to lighten the the mood at shows. "The other songs are pretty serious; you can't be melodramatic for too long. Who can take that?"
He paused for a moment, then quipped: "You can't be emo all the time!"