Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

There’s something worrisome about a family band that makes dark music, but it works for young Seattle quintet Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band. With its sophomore album, Where The Messengers Meet, the group puts miles between itself and the self-titled debut it released only 18 months ago, and discovers unexpected edge in the process. Look no further than “Bitter Cold,” a heaving dirge that finds Benjamin Verdoes and his wife Traci Eggleston unraveling a cheerless narrative of madness and abandonment over a tempo set by their 15-year-old adopted son, Marshall. Along the way, over the course of Messengers, swooning cellos, spiky guitars, math-rock drum configurations, and even the occasional banjo enhance the drama. And barring that last element, which appears on a rustic little haunter called “Not To Know,” MSHVB manages to slip the Modest Mouse comparisons that plagued the band last time around. But rather than arrive as far afield as the press release suggests—into the epic, where Pink Floyd and Arcade Fire apparently dwell in perfect harmony—the Verdoes and friends land square in yet another early-’00s indie-rock yoke. Frankly, a number of these songs could be B-sides from Cursive’s emo-chestral post-hardcore monument The Ugly Organ, from the bluesy opener “At Night” to the angular, energetic single “Hurrah” to the woozy late-album standout “Cadence.” At this rate, MSHVB will be onto Trail Of Dead’s Source Tags And Codes by late 2011.


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