Real Close Ones

by: The M's

The M's' follow-up to their excellent Future Women album, 2008's Real Close Ones, doesn't quite reach the same dizzying heights but is still a satisfying listen. As before, the band mixes and matches various musical styles (straight-up indie rock, glam rock, folk, and good old rock & roll) and influences (most notably Harry Nilsson on the lascivious "Naked"), and ends up with a bright and sparkling result, only this time there is more melancholy blended in -- maybe even a trace of weariness in place of the swaggering joy Future Women was infected with. Songs like "Papers" and "Get Your Shit Together" are real-life laments made by guys with real lives; there is far less swagger and strut on display here. Instead of thrashing drums all over the place, there are quiet drum machines. Instead of handclaps and sunny harmonies, you get quiet front-porch strumming and only the very rare wild musical outburst. The group's over the top attack has been covered by a blanket of calm thoughtfulness and an almost eerie feeling of restraint. Eerie only because their previous record had no restraint whatsoever, this really sounds like the work of a different band that really likes ballads. Even the rockers like "Impossible View" and "Bros in Arms" don't make much noise or cause any impact. In fact, only a couple of songs make much of a mark: "Naked" and the album-closing "How Could You?," which adds horns, organ, and backing harmonies and is most reminiscent of the band's previous sound. The more mature and considered approach the band utilizes on Real Close Ones might make for a deeper, more adult sound, but it's hard not to miss the careening thrill ride the band delivered on Future Women. Maybe the record will turn out to be a "grower" that sinks in more and more with each listen, but -- initially at least -- it's a letdown that fades from memory as soon as the last notes fade. ~ Tim Sendra

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