The Most Serene Republic was a pleasant surprise when I first saw them in 2005. Shortly after signing to Arts & Crafts, they joined an an all-star line-up on Toronto’s Olympic Island, sharing the stage with Modest Mouse, Broken Social Scene, Metric and Do Make Say Think. The young band’s exuberance and the catchiness of their cheekily titled first single ‘Content was Always My Favourite Colour’ managed to outshine a number of the better-known bands on the playbill. It was certainly a great first impression and Underwater Cinematographer was a solid first effort by an up-and-coming band. I wasn’t even aware that a second album, Population, as well as the tour-only EP Phages (which, given the amount of material could be considered a de facto album) were out when I saw them a second time a few years later, which made for a rather confusing performance of unfamiliar material. While Underwater Cinematographer was immediately accessible, the band shifted into a far more complex style which could be considered outright chaotic to the unfamiliar listener. Looking back, there’s some great stuff if you take the time to let it wash over you.
It’s with some surprise that their third album …And the Ever Expanding Universe is markedly more focused than its sprawling predecessors. I don’t want to say the sound is pared down, as any band with this many members is going to have a lot going on, but the somewhat-organized chaos has been harnessed into, well, serenity. I feel like the production by David Newfeld, who has previously worked on albums by Los Campesinos! and Broken Social Scene, both larger bands themselves, had a big hand in the change.
Resident piano virtuoso Ryan Lenssen opens lead-off track ‘Bubble Reputation’ with yet another display of his impressive skills. You’d expect to see this man performing in some concert hall rather than in a humble indie-rock band. The band seems determined to keep using song titles seemingly written by clever English majors, but I won’t begrudge them for it. ‘Heavens to Purgatory’ makes me think of some sort of undead Snagglepuss, which makes me smile. Including the word “gadzooks” only further warms my heart. One of the highlights of the album is the vocal interplay between lead singer Adrian Jewett and guitarist Emma Ditchburn. The contrast between the two voices makes for some pretty melodies, particularly on ‘Vessels of a Donor Look.’
Ending the album with ‘No One Likes a Nihilist,’ an enjoyable song in its own right, can’t help but evoke images of the Big Lebowski in my mind. It’s just another reason this album is such a joy to listen to. Further perfecting their style, the band is clearly not out of their element.
Tags: The Most Serene Republic