Back in January of this year I had the opportunity to catch Mister Heavenly at Lincoln Hall as part of the Tomorrow Never Knows Festival. At this point, not a whole lot was known about the supergroup comprised of Ryan Kattner of Man Man, Nick Thorburn of Islands, and Joe Plummer of Modest Mouse. As a novelty on this mini-tour that they were doing, Michael Cera was accompanying the band on bass. I’ll be honest, as much as I love Islands music, I really bought the tickets because I knew Michael Cera would be there. As it turns out, he’s a serviceable bass player, and the music Mister Heavenly played was pretty damn good.
Now, seven months later, the band are finally putting out their debut record Out Of Love. I got a copy of it last week, and I’ve barely listened to anything else since its initial run through my iPod. There’s some really awesome tracks on here, as well as a couple duds. The one thing that surprised me most is that it took these guys so long to get together. Their styles seem to fit perfectly with one another.
The album opener, “Bronx Sniper” borrows heavily from Neil Young’s guitar riff in the song “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I was shocked to hear it, but it does go well with the song, and it gives the listener some idea of the influences that may be present later on. Mister Heavenly doesn’t waste any time getting us acquainted with the members of the band, either. Thorburn and Kattner trade vocals between verse and chorus, and Plummer’s drums are constantly driving the song forward.
Track two, “I Am A Hologram,” begins with Kattner delivering one of my favorite lines of the year so far: “I am a hologram, a modern version of a shell of a man.” I think it’s something about the way he accents the line that makes it great. It’s on this song we learn that no Mister Heavenly song is going to sound like the one before it, and in fact, by the end probably won’t sound like the song that we started with.
Those two provide a great intro to Mister Heavenly’s weird pop sensibilities. They’ve been around the block a few times, so they know what works and what doesn’t. Which probably expains why there isn’t a BAD song on the record. There are some tracks that don’t live up to the promise of the openers. Most notably the songs “Charlyne” (not to be confused with Stephen and the Colberts song “Charlene I’m Right Behind You”) and the song “Mister Heavenly,” which sounds like a mix of the Kids In The Hall theme song and some surf rock off of the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.
But after those, it’s pretty much smooth sailing for the rest of the record. I noticed when I saw them live, and it’s stayed true on the record here, that it’s basically a Islands record with Nick using a different backup band. Now, I really enjoy The Arm and Vapors, but it might have been nice to hear more from Kattner, who I feel kinda takes a “Whatever, man. I’m down.” approach to the record. Maybe I’m wrong, but my assumption is that when they actually got together and started writing, Thorburn said we’re doing it this way and the others just agreed.
Tracks 6 and 7 both have ridiculous foodstuff-related names, “Reggae Pie” and “Pineapple Girl.” Amazingly, they’re both really good songs. “Reggae Pie” has Kattner singing “I don’t care if I’m outta line, I don’t care if we’re marking time. I don’t care if you’ll never be mine, cause I’m yours.” The actual mention of reggae pie seems to be a comment on how silly a song can be as long as it sounds good. And on “Pineapple Girl” we get maybe the poppiest of the songs on the record. The lyrics here are even better: “I don’t desire to be a thoughtless creature, just waltzin through the woods waitin to get eatin. know my bloods young and I seem so harmless, twist fast bring me down breed a heart of darkness.”
The second half of the record doesn’t hold up quite as well as the first, but it’s still a good listen. “Diddy Eyes” and “Your Girl” are both cool tracks, but “Wisemen,” “Doom Wop” and “Hold Your Hand” don’t really equal the quality of the rest of the record.
It probably reads like I’m contradicting myself in this review, because I keep mentioning how Islands-y the sound is, but I keep bringing up Kattner when I talk about the lyrics. Look, it’s been a few months now and I think I’ve earned your trust. Just go with me on this one. It sounds like an Islands record. If that’s something you can get behind, grab a copy of Out Of Love when it comes out tomorrow. If not, I got no sympathy pal, because it is fuck or walk. (That Glengarry Glenross reference is your free gift for reading this review).