Artists thread a fine line when they dabble with the idea of a super group. The end product will invariably be judged by their former glories and, in many cases, will not survive such a comparison. Thankfully, Nick Thorburn (Islands), Ryan Kattner (Man Man) & Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse) surpass expectations with their incendiary incarnation Mister Heavenly. Inspired by their shared love of doo wop and avant garde indie, Mister Heavenly exist within a genre of their own creation; doom-wop – a modern revision of the ’50s pop era, full of macabre tales of heartache and disaffection.
These playfully ironic love songs are written for a generation more accustomed to text message breakups than Dear John letters. The two-stepping ‘Charlyne’ is a satire of the sweetheart ballad with a surf rock vibe in the style of The Beach Boys, while a touch of horror pop filters into the piano-driven “I Am A Hologram’, with Kattner’s crooning drawing comparison to Danzig’s earlier years. Thorburn’s Buddy Holly-like harmonies complement Kattner’s rasping baritone and highlight the depth and range of the band’s eclectic style.
The trio’s uncanny fusion of doo wop and garage rock produces a sound that is at once familiar and yet unique. While traces of The Marcels and The Misfits appear at regular intervals, Out Of Love expands upon earlier genres and never merely becomes a game of spot the influence. At moments, the trio find a perfect balance between the two genres, producing a sound that is distinct from the sum of its parts. The title track is a fiery, subversive love song combining doo-wop rhythms with a bass-heavy rock beat. The anthemic ‘Bronx Sniper’ abandons the ’50s pastiche in favour of a raucous bluesy sound in the vein of Queens Of The Stone Age. These deviations hint at a more refined style, which could be the basis of the band’s future releases.
The energy of earlier tracks begins to wane as the album draws to a close. The final four songs rely heavily on the ’50s pop template and fail to develop it further. In lacking that unique twist, the conclusion of the album sounds more like a tribute to the genre rather than a reinvention. Even still, they possess a certain nostalgic charm unlike anything on the airwaves today and suffer only by comparison to preceding songs. Mister Heavenly have accomplished that rare feat of creating a crossover album that can be judged on its own merit. While remaining true to its musical blueprints, Out Of Love delivers its message with an ironic charm that will warm the heart of even the most critical indie fans.