The 2009 self-titled debut by Seattle's Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band, was an attractive, if nowhere near completely realized, shambolic intro to a talented group of musicians. On it they proved they could mine rock and roll's many tropes--from Lieber and Stoller and Chuck Berry to psych, glam, and indie rock--paste them togerther at odd, but charming angles, call them original songs, and pull something like an album off--even if their marketing abilties exceeeded their musical ones. Where The Messengers Meet, finds the quartet--Benjamin Verdoes, Jared Price, Traci Eggelston-Verdoes, and Marshall Verdoes, with friends and guests --a bit more focused if less ambitious. In other words, you've heard everything here before as MSHVB reference indie rockers such as Modest Mouse, Wolf Parade, and Arcade Fire, to name a few. Album opener "At Night," cops a Dead Weather riff-- but it's ok, DW combined stolen ones from Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix--but moves the track dramtically as Benjamin Verdoes' voice (strangely reminscent of a young Marc Bolan's) adds tension and pathos to the web of guitars, Farfisa organs, big distorted bass drums, and a rudimentary bassline. "Leaving Trails" uses a similar forumla to a more sprawling conclusion,with multi-layered backing vocals becoming every bit as insisent as the lead guitar line that propels it all forward. Three tracks from the albums center feature cello and string arrangements by Sam Anderson: "Not To Know," "You Were/I Was," and "Bitter Cold" employ the most interesting, playful textures. Each has its own complex weave of lyric lines and melodies that seem to move in different directions rhythmically and harmonically. "In A Hole" begins minimally before letting the guitars and drums push the cut into the red with only B. Verdoes' vocal climbing above the morass. Ultimately, MSHVB have plenty of their own ideas in spite of direct cops from other indie phenoms; the album doesn't quite knit together seamlessly, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of interesting stuff here. If anything, Where The Messengers Are is an easily measurable improvement over their debut.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek