Painted Thin Clear, Plausible Stories

It's not often that a band with a conscience makes a record that even the morally devoid would love, but here comes Clear, Plausible Stories from Winnipeg's Painted Thin. With previous releases of heavy-handed music-with-a-message type lyrics, this band was definitely not living up to its potential. But on this disc, Painted Thin has found a way to address both international ("Landmine") and more personal issues (“Breakable Crust") with a subtle, accessible style that will give them a much better chance of standing out from the seeming thousands of pop-punkers raging against… well, everything. Since the departure of guitarist Stephen Carroll (Weakerthans), Painted Thin's line-up and job descriptions have diversified. Lead vocalist and bassist Paul Furgale now shares vocal duties with both guitarist Michael MacKenzie and one track by guitarist Doug McLean (Bonaduces). Thankfully, McLean now seems comfortable enough with his voice to dump the quasi-British affectation he previously favoured, while MacKenzie's raspy strain offsets Furgale's half-talking/half-yelling style and occasionally slows the pace down. And, because Painted Thin can successfully slow it down on tracks like "Mid-Semester" and "Nine a.m.," they may be distancing themselves even further from other bands in the genre who rage simply because that's all they can do. (Independent)