Mister Heavenly were very likely doomed from the get-go to be known as the band with Michael Cera. Cera wasn’t a founding member of the band. And he only really toured with them once. But no matter how tight the association between Cera and the scruffy indie pop outfit, which also features Man Man’s Ryan Kattner, Islands’ Nick Thorburn and Modest Mouse’s Joe Plummer, the headlines had already been printed. According to the band, however, Cera was never actually a regular fixture in the group, just a bass-playing friend who came through when they needed someone to lend them some low end. And for anyone waiting to drop the inevitable Dogstar bomb, Mister Heavenly already played that card. Gin. Checkmate. Whatever.
Accordingly, Out of Love, Mister Heavenly’s Sub Pop debut, solely bears the credits of Kattner, Thorburn and Plummer, a trio whose very sound can likely be easily imagined by anyone who has heard any combination of albums recorded by its members’ other bands. If that sounds like I’m saying the album is predictable, then I suppose I am, but in the most complimentary way possible. Man Man, Islands/Unicorns and Modest Mouse signposts are erected throughout the 36-minute album, giddily delivering precisely what an indie supergroup of this order promises.
Out of Love is stacked high with Beefheart-ian growl and grumble, quirky balladry and meaty guitar crunch that ultimately summarizes the last decade’s worth of indie rock records neatly in a 36-minute package. Under different circumstances, this would yield far less satisfying results, but Mister Heavenly, whether featuring Scott Pilgrim or not, comprises a team of veterans who know how to write a catchy pop tune and load it with barking, masculine energy. Leadoff track “Bronx Sniper” encapsulates this idea splendidly, beginning as a dreamy-yet-sinister introduction before exploding into a raucous stomp that would sound perfectly at home on Man Man’s most recent album, or for that matter, bleated by Isaac Brock. The band grows increasingly doo-wop (or ‘doom-wop,’ in their words) on the upbeat “I Am a Hologram,” which pushes Thorburn’s vocals to the front. And “Mister Heavenly” boasts a dirty, distorted slink overgrown with ’50s-style flourishes.
Mister Heavenly keep humble goals on Out of Love, but the upside to that is that their ambition never gets the best of them. Certainly, each of these musicians is capable of something bigger and weirder, but that’s not really the point. Rather, this is an album about three career musicians getting together and writing some great, simple pop songs, and more importantly, succeeding at doing so.
Stream: Mister Heavenly – “Bronx Sniper”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.