‘Doom-wop’ supergroup channels the classics
Published: November 3, 2011
with Mr. Dream, Brett Gelman
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9
Out of Love (Sub Pop)
In some ways, indie-rock supergroup Mister Heavenly – comprised of Nick Thorburn (Islands/the Unicorns), Ryan Kattner (Man Man) and Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse) – is the sum of its parts. The general language of this debut album mines the artier sides of rock, pop and punk, but the unexpected twist is the core of ’50s pop and doo-wop. The resulting so-called “doom-wop” is a surprisingly fresh bit of indie-minded pop re-contextualization.
Although they heavily reference those vintage styles, Mister Heavenly are a bit less literal than their contemporaries. Their effortless melodies lovingly channel the past but are spoken in a modern vernacular. Then again, it’s impossible to not sound contemporary when the voice that single-handedly defines Man Man is churning in the mix. And though the harmonic contrast between primary songwriters Kattner and Thorburn is a key ingredient, the presence of Kattner’s wildly distinctive, body-groaning vocal style is what really sets Mister Heavenly apart. Their vocal interplay is indeed effective, but the songs take on a thrillingly dark aspect and tension when his swashbuckling voice slashes through. That burly mania is the counterbalance that shades the sweet teenage swoon of their tunes a mischievously sinister hue.
Out of Love is heavily studded with neo-classic smashes like “Charlyne,” “Wise Men,” “Hold My Hand” and “Diddy Eyes.” Of the more modern-leaning songs, top picks are the piano-pumping “I Am a Hologram,” the pulse-banging throb of “Mister Heavenly,” the fried T. Rex strut of “Doom Wop” and the art-punk-wop of “Harm You.”
Out of Love is a tight, bright, high-efficiency collection of irresistible pop nuggets. Mister Heavenly wields the timeless pop immediacy of the ’50s with utter fluidity but imbues it all with just enough slant and edge to be exceptional. Of the many bands reworking the oldies today, few are doing it with as much angle and signature as this.
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