There’s an interesting tension between the brash assault of their sound and the vulnerable confessional lyrics, in songs like “A Lifeless Ordinary” (“I always knew I had the answer / But I never understood the question”) or the winsome “Stand Too Close” (“I’m afraid I tend to disappear / Into an anxious state when you are near”). Things ramp up to full-fledged panic on songs like “Hysteria,” with its frantic refrain “a total calamity, the choices I have made.” In the boppy “Delirium,” the singer swears off pharmaceuticals (a reference to Pierre’s past substance abuse), yet admits that “There’s a voice, there’s a voice, there’s a voice in my head / It’s rather soothing and it tells me that I’m better off dead.” That vital emotive quality depends more than anything on Pierre’s considerable vocal gifts – his broad range, from earnest tenor to panic-struck falsetto, and his superb ear for tricky melodic intervals.
I was disappointed by the album’s first single, “Disappear,” with its derivative R.E.M.-like minor key riffs and rat-tat-tat lyrics. But the band successfully extends its sound on other tracks, like the jangly, surreal “Pulp Fiction,” with its images of sensory assault (“the plot sucks but the killings are gorgeous”), and the Ben Folds-ish “Skin and Bones,” a plangent meditation on the universe (“What if there’s nothing more to us / We’re just carbon-based, we’re just pixie dust”). The true MCS touch comes in that song’s wistful refrain: “Will we be all right, left alone at night?” No pomposity, no preachiness, just heartfelt longing for reassurance in an uncertain and dangerous world. In the end, isn’t that what we all want?