A meeting of three very different minds, Mister Heavenly features Modest Mouse’s drummer (Joe Plummer), Islands’ sole founding member (Nick Thorburn), and Man Man’s bug-eyed, liquor-pickled frontman (Ryan Kattner). Out of Love, their first album, is a sweetly schizophrenic push-and-pull between Kattner’s yowling, sweat-stained psyche and Thorburn’s sunnier, abstracted sensibilities. Behind them both, Plummer’s stolid, low-slung backbeat gives the songs the same motor that powered “Float On.” The result is a sinewy, shimmying and highly physical slab of melodic rock that hits both your hips and your head with the nervy dexterity of vintage Greg Dulli.
Kattner, aka Honus Honus, remains a magnetic, scenery-gobbling presence, and when his gasping vocals are foregrounded, Mister Heavenly feels overwhelmingly like his project. Elsewhere, on the doo-wop shuffle of “Charlyne” or the sea-breeze gentleness of “Harm You,” Thorburn seems, momentarily, to have wrested control. The most intriguing moments come when Kattner and Thorburn meet halfway, or, more aptly, collide mid-thought: the dancehall bounce of the chorus “I Am A Hologram” throws a sweetly harmonized Merseybeat monkey wrench into Kattner’s tortured ode to his own shortcomings. “Doom Wop” gives Thorburn’s nasal tenor center stage over a menacing wall of down-tuned guitars. The vibe throughout is loose and low-stakes, with some nice throwaway moments — a song called “Reggae Pie,” a falsetto chant of “you’ll never get it, you’ll never get it, no” on the title track that comes this close to quoting En Vogue — that stamp irrevocably Out of Love as a “side project.” Sometimes, however, side projects are the ones that stick with you the most; they demand little and supply uncomplicated, commitment-free pleasures. Mister Heavenly might be a one-off, but don’t be surprised if it proves an unexpectedly durable companion.