When Mister Heavenly formed in 2010, there was no genre that described its music, so the members created their own. “Doom Wop” is a category that strives to contain the fitful guitars, howling vocals, and ’60s-pop sensibilities that marinate into an aggressive yet danceable melée of noise on the band’s debut, Out of Love, and last fall’s Boxing the Moonlight.
Representing the combined talents of Man Man’s Honus Honus (aka Ryan Kattner) and Nick Thorburn of The Unicorns and Islands, Mister Heavenly was mistaken as a gimmick when it burst onto the scene with actor Michael Cera manning bass duties. However, any locals who attended the third-ever live performance at San Francisco’s Café du Nord were quickly convinced otherwise.
Did Cera crack a few Full House jokes? Sure, but he admirably filled his role as one-fourth of a band that rightful deserves the overused descriptor of “supergroup.”
Kattner and Thorburn are innovative, eclectic musicians who approach pop rock like surgery, extracting the glands and testing the blood of those who have come before to create a Frankenstein’s monster that is half Phil Spector and half garage-rock. Part of the latter’s influence can perhaps be attributed to drummer Joe Plummer, best known for his eight-year run with Modest Mouse.
Each of the three permanent members brings something different to the group, but heard together, it’s honestly hard to see how Mister Heavenly hasn’t become their primary project. These guys are just made for each other.
As a trio — Cera departed after the initial tour — Mister Heavenly is like a tropical cocktail spiked with absinthe. On tracks like “Harm You,” they expertly employ harmonies to tap into the sweeter side of the pre-Beatles pop soundscape they most heavily draw from. Yet there is also something menacing in many of their songs, a ferociousness that may be played by Kattner’s growl or the moan of a bass but which regardless of a form adds a hearty gravitas to their work.
The pain of supergroups comes from never knowing just how long they’ll last. With Cera, it was only a matter of time before a new season of Arrested Development or the temptation of an Aaron Sorkin script came calling. Luckily for all of us, the end of Cera’s tenure has not spelled the end of Mister Heavenly, which has welcomed bassist Brett Morris — who some readers may know as the head engineer of comedy podcast powerhouse Earwolf.
Once again a quartet, Mister Heavenly is a reflection of why Noise Pop is a crown jewel of San Francisco’s musical calendar. While the band may now be forced to draw their one-liners from Fuller House, their intoxicating blend of brilliant hooks and oddball arrangements returns intact and ready for responsible consumption.
Mister Heavenly with Why? and Florist Thursday, Feb. 22, 8 p.m., at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd. $25.50; 415-346-6000 or noisepopfest.com
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