As evidenced by the last five years, What Made Milwaukee Famous isn't afraid to make us wait, often with little live play in between. Following the locals' pair of full-lengths for Seattle indie label Barsuk, 2008's What Doesn't Kill Us being the most recent, Michael Kingcaid & Co. return with third LP You Can't Fall Off the Floor, marked by the revamped quintet's dramatic disposition. In the midst of what's become a permanent musical sea change, each WMMF album takes on a different approach to polished pop. "Silence Is the Loudest Answer" opens with intended austerity, a subtle, guitar-plucked march that slowly swells to a well-calculated and sudden end. What follows hovers somewhere between unapologetically hooky guitar rock and twanged-out country revival. The steel guitar weep of "Sorry (Again)," fuzzy bass sludge driving "Just Run," and elated horns on "Down" play out as if three altogether different acts cut them. The album thus zooms between influences, all executed aptly, but not quite seamlessly. Maybe to its own chagrin, the band remains at its prime when working within the lighter pop that marked its early career. Acoustic whirls and delicate harmonies on "Rosewood," guesting Ottawa's Kathleen Edwards, make for a starkly elegant highlight, shedding some of the verbose tendencies of You Can't Fall Off the Floor. Yet the clear album centerpiece the first time through and many listens afterward remains "Gone and Done It Now," smartly ornamented but at its base an irresistible, anthemic pop song.
Copyright © 2014 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.