by Tim Grierson
Handsome furs don't make albums as much as they make travelogues. Canadian married couple Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry invest their electronic indie-pop with the energy of their surroundings — their 2007 debut, Plague Park, was the band's down-in-the-mouth interpretation of their visit to Scandinavia, and their new album, Face Control, means to recapture the essence of an Eastern European trek the couple recently took. And from the sounds of things, their latest adventure was chock-full of sex, danger and loathing. As a result, they've graduated from making simply a diverting album to crafting a gripping one that demands your undivided attention.
Boeckner — whose vocals are unmistakable from his contributions to his day-job band, Wolf Parade — has always sung with a bit of unhinged paranoia lodged in his throat. But where his caffeinated voice belied Plague Park's placid surface, on Face Control, his freak-outs intertwine perfectly with the album's jagged synth-pop that's full of chilly ambivalence. The romantic meltdowns of "Officer of Hearts" and "Thy Will Be Done" are Eurotrash nightmares of never-ending parties and bad drugs that you hope are fictional tales — otherwise, Boeckner and Perry have a stronger marriage than most.
Whether invented or not, the sleazy, sexed-up desperation of much of Face Control ensures that this collection will be more engaging than your friends' boring pictures of vacationing in Hawaii. Most people return from their holiday ready to brag; Handsome Furs are just happy to have survived theirs.
Handsome Furs play Saturday, March 14, at the Blind Pig, 208 S. First St., Ann Arbor; 734-996-8555; with Silverghost.
Tim Grierson writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.