What band sounds like Broken Social Scene minus about eight members, is signed to Arts & Crafts, and hails from Canada? If you answered `Broken Social Scene,’ you obviously weren’t paying much attention to the prompt, but two out of three isn’t bad. Adrian Jewett and the starry-eyed members of The Most Serene Republic (boasting a measly seven members) want you to know that their music is certainly not affiliated with Kevin Drew and his troupe, except for that whole label thing, oh, and taking almost all their musical cues from that aforementioned Canadian supergroup.
Population, the band’s sophomore set, is what keyboardist Ryan Lenssen describes unabashedly as their “dystopian novel record.” So that’s what those neatly arranged rows of wooden block houses on the album art signify. Like a post-modern examination of suburban sprawl made ironic by the fact that they’re represented as toys. I get it. Good thing I took all those critical theory classes in college, or else that might have gone right over my head. Anyway, the music contained therein couldn’t be more rooted in a present-day mire of youthful angst and misdirected vigor.
Of course no concept album maligning the current state of the world would be complete without abstruse lyricism, and Jewett and Emma Ditchburn dole out the doublethink in spades. “Present Of Future End” boasts such classic lines as “where to now, stillborns of the last big take this?” and “human beings have been solved and now they want to fake us” amid the swelling of Stars-like horns and guitar shred. It’s all there, the quiet-loud dynamics, the intricate instrumentation, the male/female vocals, the ambition veering into pretension. Unfortunately these city streets are fairly well worn.
When the words don’t get in the way, as on the Hitchcock-thriller “Agenbite Of Inwit” or opener “Humble Peasants,” MSR display a dazzling group cohesion and propensity for jamming it out. The jazzy, free form signatures of “A Mix Of Sun And Cloud” is Population‘s “Pacific Theme,” woozy like a head full of painkillers.
If debut Underwater Cinematographer captured footage of The Most Serene Republic in its infancy, then Population is adolescence, the confused lashing-out and self discovery that precedes true wisdom. Given time for growth, perhaps Jewett and his droogs will transcend their own towering aspirations, and with any luck, their more obvious influences.