Album: Rilo Kiley

More Adventurous, WEA / BRUTE BEAUTE
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More Adventurous is exactly the kind of title you want a band to choose when they make the jump from independent to major label. No thought of retrenchment or consolidation, but a spirited push further on into uncharted territory - that's the spirit!

In Rilo Kiley's case, make that "territories", as More Adventurous manages to cover more ground, lyrically at least, in its 11 songs than most bands manage in their entire career. Take the opener "It's a Hit", whose four verses encompass a trenchant critique of contemporary American mores, from Bush's warmongering ("Any chimp can play human for a day/ And use his opposable thumbs to iron his uniform") to overly possessive relationships, artists who offer pain for pay, and back again to Bush's penchant for capital punishment. Yet the journey never seems disjointed, the disparate strands sharing the underlying theme of brutality, and stitched together with lovely descending droplets of guitar from Blake Sennett.

Sennett and fellow singer/guitarist Jenny Lewis were both child actors, and while it's our gain that they chose music over drama, their thespian training may have something to do with the way the individual songs here spring vividly to life, and certainly with their ability to take on the different roles. Lewis is particularly adept at playing bad girls, dealing in "Portions for Foxes" with a sexaholic's inability to resist temptation ("you're just damage control for a walking corpse like me"), and struggling to rein in her baser instincts to take a chance on stability in "I Never": "Cause I've been bad/ I've lied, cheated, stolen/ And been ungrateful for what I had/ And I'm afraid habits rule my waking life".

Emotional damage and wanton destruction are recurrent themes, whether it's the compulsion to wreck things that appear fine (especially relationships), the way reproach prompts suicide in the oddly jocular "Ripchord", or the self-destructive lifestyle pursued by the subject of "Accidntel Deth". Yet the manner of their airing somehow draws the poison from these concerns, the way a thunderstorm de-ionises an oppressive atmosphere.

Musically, Rilo Kiley operate in much the same region as their friends Bright Eyes (whom they support on tour here next month) and Lambchop, particularly when the sad horns slide into the country-rock lilt of "A Man/ Me/ Then Jim", a moving reflection on the ways we deal with abandonment. Around their alt.country core, they turn a variety of tricks, from raunch-rock pop to sublime country soul.

The result is a hugely impressive set that should figure strongly in the "year's best" lists. Now, would some enterprising indie label like to issue their two previous albums over here?

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