Mt. St. Helen's Vietnam Band Mt. St. Helen's Vietnam Band

Mt. St. Helen's Vietnam Band Mt. St. Helen's Vietnam Band
Cloyingly clever, this Seattle-based quintet's terrible name under-sells a record that brims with intelligence, subtle hooks and confidence. Throughout, tightly wound, exacting arrangements meet sharp lyrics, creating an auspiciously accomplished debut. Singer Benjamin Verdoes has a penchant for insightful observations and his band artfully drape them in a wide range of both complementary and contradictory sounds. The misanthropic "Cheer for Fate" positions a skipping bass against a resolutely cynical narrator. Conversely, "Who's Asking" has an appositely accusatory guitar line. Switching tactics, "Masquerade" wears two separate but equal guises, bounding between a brio-filled, screeching anthem and a choral waltz, while "Anchors Dropped" marches a snaking but fluid riff out to sea. Like a hot librarian, "A Year or Two" effuses unintentional eroticism. It begins as a sad sack tale set to gingerly plucked strings but the rhythm section portends an explosion. Cathartically it arrives, though only after a deliberately tense waiting period. Though occasional metaphors stray towards the obvious ("Albatross, Albatross, Albatross") and mild self-indulgence creeps in ("On the Collar"), the infrequency of these missteps make their effects negligible. The record has the playfulness of the Born Ruffians (as well as a vocal similarity) and the measured frenzy of Tokyo Police Club. It also has a compelling combination of erudition, both musically and lyrically, and ambition. (Dead Oceans)