The Most Serene Republic …And the Ever Expanding Universe

[Arts & Crafts; 2009]

Styles: A calculator where the only functioning buttons are “add” and “multiply”
Others: Broken Social Scene (they wish), The Fiery Furnaces (I wish)

If patience is a virtue, then consider The Most Serene Republic slaves to vice. The Canadian indie-poppers’ last two albums, 2005’s Underwater Cinematographer and 2007’s Population, were jam-packed with half-formed melodies, half-thought-out song structures, and unstable tempos. Listening to either album in full left even the most detail-attentive listener gasping for air (or at least some form of longterm aural gratification). A significant amount of tedium-induced worry is raised, then, when learning that the band’s latest album is titled …And the Ever Expanding universe -- what these kids need is to put their feet on the ground, not to tackle all-encompassing themes.

The good news is that Universe finds The Most Serene Republic attempting to establish some sort of order in their oft-chaotic method of songwriting by slowing down the jackhammer drum beats and Tourette's-indebted vocal delivery exhibited on Population. Unfortunately, the (slightly) slowed focus doesn’t as much allow the band to reveal its songwriting talents as it does to reveal its general shortcomings.

Save the ill-advised, ill-executed six-minute orchestral interlude “Patternicity,” mid-tempo boy/girl indie-rock whisperings make up a good deal of Universe’s middle section, and the tunes never come off as more than third-rate Broken Social Scene album filler (this is coming from someone who doesn’t think first-rate Broken Social Scene is all that great to begin with). It’s a shamefully easy, completely condescending putdown, considering the two bands share a label (and, for this record, producer Dave Newfeld) -- but there are too many “this dull thing sounds like that slightly less dull thing” moments on Universe (see: the fuzzed-out bass on “Phi,” the aptly-titled “The Old Forever New Things”) not to make it.

There are a few out-and-out decent melodic points of Universe -- the drum circle drop-out in the middle of album opener “Bubble Reputation,” the co-ed vocal syncopation that kicks off “Vessels Of A Donor Look” -- but they’re paid inadequate attention in favor of getting to the next (and, more often than not, underwhelming) musical phrase. This game of literal musical chairs completely cripples The Most Serene Republic’s musical aims to the point that the album’s 40-minute runtime feels 20 minutes too long. It would be great to be able to say that they’re “getting there” as an entity, but the unoriginality and unfocused nature of …And the Ever Expanding Universe guarantees that The Most Serene Republic are going to be stuck in the “opening band” status for a while longer.

1. Bubble Reputation
2. Heavens To Purgatory
3. Vessels Of A Donor Look
4. Phi
5. The Old Forever New Things
6. All Of One Is The Other
7. Patternicity
8. Four Humours
9. Catharsis Boo
10. Don’t Hold Back, Feel A Little Longer
11. No One Likes A Nihilist

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