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Record Review: Mister Heavenly’s Out of Love

By / Posted on 15 August 2011

Mister Heavenly - Out of LoveThe indie rock supergroup. An oft-attempted formula with mixed results, to say the least. Some outshine the efforts of their separate contributors, like Broken Social Scene or, to a certain extent, the Postal Service. Others like the Raconteurs, the Good the Bad and the Queen or Monsters of Folk serve to segment their audiences even more than their already quirky cult followings. New indie rock supergroup Mister Heavenly has a lineup to stun the competition into a stupor of forced fascination: Man Man’s Honus Honus, the Unicorns/Islands’ Nick Thorburn, Modest Mouse’s Joe Plummer, and touring bassist Michael Cera of Arrested Development/Scott Pilgrim fame.

The name Mister Heavenly is already an unfortunate first impression. Anyone expecting a comeback album from the frontman of 90′s twee band Heavenly is in for an unfortunate surprise (don’t pretend it’s that obscure a reference, 1992′s “C is the Heavenly Option” was included in The Pitchfork 500). While most sideprojects or collaborative projects like this seek to create a new sound unlike that of the associated bands, Out of Love does more to prove how very similar the songs of both Islands and Man Man are, as any of these dozen songs could fit comfortably on either band’s next album depending on whether Nick or Honus takes the lead vocal.

The modus operandi seems to be inoffensive indie pop. “Charlyne” and closing track “Wise Men” have Honus putting on the Phil Spector hat of classic ballad goodness while “Harm You” and “Doom Wop” feature Thorburn impersonating Jack White with simplistic riffs and posturing of toughness in a landscape of  gentle frailty. The majority of the album flows right by without making any sort of impression beyond “gee, that sure is a melody.” Only opener “Bronx Sniper” makes any lasting impression, and even then by forcing Thorburn and Honus to play off of each other as two wildly different voices in the same story.

Mister Heavenly demonstrate an ability to play together unlike most other bands with this sort of pedigree. Clearly the members are reacting to each other and collaborating as equal partners, and that is to be commended. There is nothing overtly bad about Out of Love, there’s just nothing noteworthy either. What could have been a very exciting EP is instead a completely benign LP. We hope that these boys get back together again soon, though, as a more considered release could be very worthwhile indeed.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.