The Most Serene Republic - Underwater Cinematographer

Alex Worsnip 13/03/2006

Rating: 3/5

A minor indie hit in America last year, this album sees its UK release almost a year later. The Most Serene Republic are on Arts & Crafts, Broken Social Scene's label - indeed, they're the first signings not in some way directly connected with that band. However, they're deeply connected with them sonically, taking the same jam band approach. In fact there's the same vivid sonic depth, immense layering - put less positively, clutter - that characterises Broken Social Scene's latest eponymous effort. However, the singer sounds exactly like Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie and The Postal Service, lending things a more emo tilt.

At times it's divine - the huge synth washes and squelching beats that underpin 'Content Was Always My Favourite Colour' suggest a Canadian My Bloody Valentine, while 'The Protagonist Suddenly Realises What He Must Do Amidst Downtown Traffic' is in turns big and noisy and then light and airy, driven along by heavenly piano. They also know how to do the more conventional indie rock thing to great effect - see 'Where Cedar Nouns And Adverbs Walk'.

However, at times its all a bit too self-consciously complex - the faintly ridiculous prog-classical 'Prologue' and 'Epilogue' which bookend the album; the spaced-out 'In Places, Empty Spaces' which plods weightily for five minutes; the oddly up-tempo 'King of No One', which features some incongruous easy listening Spanish guitar and goes absolutely nowhere, with a meandering and utterly forgettable melody. To some extent they're caught by the clich├ęs of the Pitchfork-friendly US/Canadian indie scene of the moment. Nevertheless, the record shows considerable promise, and some very interesting sounds, which sometimes end in genuine success.