Monday, November 16, 2009

Most Serene Republic – November 14 at Zaphod's (Ottawa)

Meligrove Band
...was a no-show Saturday night, apparently down with the swine. Whoever booked the new opening band probably did so at the last minute, because they were pretty awful. Group vocals with no harmonies, boring song structures, drum fills that don't quite fit...all in all, they reminded me of decent high school shows. That also provides a nice segue since high school is where I first saw The Oneironauts (who then became Most Serene).

The Most Serene Republic
It's been almost 5 years since the underwater cinematographers played with The Junction at an indie music night at the Heritage Theatre in Brampton, Ontario. At the time, it seemed like The Junction was slated to break out, bringing their jazz-pop intensity outside the southwestern Ontario scene. Instead, however, a younger version of Most Serene became the first Arts & Crafts signees outside the immediate Broken Social Scene family, and did their best to navigate the hype stowed upon them. Three albums later, their main task seems to be rekindling that initial buzz, though it doesn't seem like they're going back to their earlier incarnation anytime soon. After "Where Cedar Nouns and Adverbs Walk" – whose centrepiece shout-along "I think we all know the words" brought me right back to 2004 – the band mocked the chorus, which they wrote when they were 19.

As Most Serene blew up, The Junction quietly got a distribution deal with Universal, but after a so-so debut – which veered from their cleaner roots toward distortion and screams – got dropped. Though they're back with a sound that better emulates their earlier wonders, there's no tour to back it up. Taking different paths, both bands have found out how tough the industry can be.

Most Serene's Saturday night set could have benefited from better sound, since it's easy to lose track of seven people playing through nightclub speakers. Seeing them at Guelph's Hillside Festival two years ago, I was re-invigorated by their swirling tightness and singer Adrian Jewett's patented kookiness. Though he still employs some impish dance moves, Jewett has traded his high-pitched tomfoolery for mid-ranged normalcy – and the wannabe Emily Haines next to him isn't quite strong enough as a lead. With their musicianship muddied and the main character tamed, the band seems to be sacrificing their energy for an undefined focus.

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