During the opening moments of Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band's second album, Where the Messengers Meet, my first thought was, "Huh. Sounds like Fleet Foxes." Later on, I thought, "Huh. Sounds like Arcade Fire." This occurred several more times, each one reminiscent of a different group. It was enough to induce cognitive whiplash. Where the Messengers Meet wears its influences on its sleeve.
Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. Those many styles are backed up by reliably solid instrumentation, with lots of skittering guitar and strings that don't soar so much as rumble ominously. Frontman Benjamin Verdoes gets full use out of his vocal range, sometimes singing in a thin whisper and other times wailing like a banshee receiving a root canal. The sheer variety of styles on display, however, leads to a somewhat inconsistent overall experience.
Based on the merits of Where the Messengers Meet, I like the band. I like the superb musicianship. I like the occasional eloquence in the songwriting. But this is one group still searching for its own sound. I wouldn't be surprised if, a few years down the line, we'll listen to other bands' albums and think, "Huh. Sounds like Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band."
Mt. St. Helen's Vietnam Band plays the Top Hat Tuesday, Oct. 26, at 9 PM, with The Meligrove Band. Cover TBA.