The Most Serene Republic Population

[Arts&Crafts; 2007]

Styles: multi-instrumental indie-rock, bleeding-heart rock
Others: The Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Manic Street Preachers, Chicken Little

Canada's The Most Serene Republic play tidy and ebullient multi-instrumental indie rock for the Arts & Crafts label, and their ever-expanding profile has allowed them to share touring duties with the likes of The Strokes, Do May Say Think, and Broken Social Scene. To boast, they also enjoy universal health care, a low murder rate, and a government grant program for the arts, which was at least partially responsible for the recording budget for Population, MSR's second LP. Canadian rock bands sure have got it good these days, I tell you. So as to who or what has wrung The Most Serene Republic's knickers into such a knot is anyone’s guess.

But after a casual glance at Population's junkscape-laden suburban photography and album artwork, it soon becomes clear that MSR suffer deeply from that very ennui and boredom associated with living in a planned community. A place where fate is laid out on "Multiplication Desks" and our existential crises suggest that our cruel destiny may lead us to merely a "Career in Shaping Clay" -- where we keep a watchful eye on anyone who looks at us funny, especially the "Men Who Live Upstairs." The Most Serene Republic open Population by trotting us out into the suburban twilight of "Humble Peasants," which starts pleasantly enough with all the right melodic bells and whistles until about a minute and a half in, when we are treated to phased horns blasting out a melody jacked straight out of Jim O'Rourke's Bad Timing. Musically and thematically, we've all heard this before.

To credit, Population is stuffed full of musical twists and turns, jittery rhythms, and serpentine vocals that remind us of the best moments of The Dismemberment Plan. What MSR do well is make good use of their broad range of instrumental capabilities, which gets the better of them on the lounge act of "A Mix of Sun and Cloud," but greatly benefits the mad carnival spook of "Agenbite of Inwit," while Bloc-Party stomper "Present of Future End" finds Most Serene Republic at their absolute best, complete with equal parts melody and moxie.

And then there are the lyrics, which leave me with no place to start. MSR have proclaimed Population to be their "Dystopian Novel Record," and with all fairness, I wouldn't want to live in this place. Unfortunately, with the vocals buried so low in the mix and nuggets like "We all just pens and fingers/ For a eulogy of those before", "How distorted must be/ Before fuzz commons acoustic sea", and "To dash the corpus with duo be L but in bending Y instead," Population will, more than anything, leave many scratching their heads. But MSR are on to something. Believe you me, something's around the corner to get us. However, Population flunks out of the message-record class it wants to be in simply because the message is clear as mud. And if The Most Serene Republic know something I don't, I'd sure as hell like a better explanation so I can keep an eye out or at least increase my healthcare premium. Then again, that's not a concern or an option in... oh, fuck it.

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