Mister Heavenly — Out of Love. Out 8/16, Sub Pop Records.
I’m never at a loss when it comes to describing a band, even if my descriptions are out there. I once said that Augustana sounded like trees, as you might remember, and earlier this year I compared Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr to salad dressing. But I have struggled like crazy to convince other people to give this album a shot, because I can’t do it justice when it comes to words. “It’s a ’50s doowop reggae synth black metal surf punk album!” I say, and then people flee before me.
And that’s not even a great description of what Mister Heavenly is doing on their clever, catchy, and occasionally frightening debut album. It’s just the best I can do, because like so much else going on musically today, this album and this band simply defy genres, and defy description. They’re as much punk as they would have fit perfectly at Moogfest, they’re Phil Spector if he had had a serious thing for crazy synthesizer reggae. They’re Dax Riggs but darker and poppier. This is a freak out mess of an album, from ragingly destructive opener “Bronx Sniper” (which scared the shit out of me the first time I listened to it, at 3:15 am on a Wednesday morning in the midst of a bout of insomnia; when the guitars and the roughly murderous vocals kicked in, I actually shrieked) to the dark swing and catch of “Doom Wop” through the genuine sun of “Pineapple Girl”.
Mister Heavenly takes everything they have at their disposal — earworm worthy lyrics, slightly off and desperately charming harmonized verses instead of choruses, outrageous instrumentaion — and puts together an album that turns every corner at a hundred miles an hour and basically doesn’t miss a single trick. “I Am A Hologram” might have come off an early Stones demo, but “Charlene” didn’t come from anywhere but the fusion of the British Invasion and the Crystals — and I’d say the same thing about “Mister Heavenly” if it hadn’t been run through both the ’80s surf rock filter and the ’90s Seattle guitar fuzz filter.
This feels like an attempt to cram as many buzzwords into a review as possible, but I swear to you it’s not; I have not been able to get enough of this album since I got it from Sub Pop, because it’s just one long hook made by a bunch of musicians who know their stuff backwards and forwards. I’d love to sit down with the band and go through the album track by track, just to get them to list off every influence scattered in every track — and to thank them, face to face, for the goosebumps that the creepy chorus of “Mister Heavenly” raises on my arms every time I hear it, because it’s one of the weirdest, most romantic things I’ve heard in a long time, and that’s the best compliment I can give this album.
I missed Mister Heavenly at the 506 last night mostly because I am an idiot, but don’t sleep on this album. It’s crept quietly into my top ten without much fanfare, but it deserves to be there, if not the top five, like nothing else I’ve heard in a long time.