Music preview: Meeting of Important People is a joy to the ears


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"My Ears Are Having a Heart Attack!" is an alarming album title on a couple of levels, but the only thing the new release from Meeting of Important People is likely to do is make hearts and ears flutter with joy -- especially for fans of charming '60s-style Britpop.

It's the second full-length from the trio that formed in 2008 from the auspicious meeting of singer-guitarist Josh Verbanets (of power-pop band The You), drummer Matt Miller (Lohio) and bassist Aaron Bubenheim (garage duo Br'er Fox).

Meeting of Important People

With: Great Ants and Pet Clinic.

Where: Mr. Smalls, Millvale.

When: 7 p.m. Friday.

Tickets: $10; 1-866-468-3401. A portion of the proceeds will go to local dance troupe Texture Ballet, who also will perform.

The band's first, self-titled album -- recently re-distributed on vinyl by garage-rock label Get Hip -- revealed the trio's sonic debt to early Kinks and Who. This time, MOIP, working again with Donora's Jake Hanner at his studio, was looking to broaden the boundaries.

"In the past, we've tried to make recordings that highlight the three-piece kinda garage-rock interplay we have as a live band," says Mr. Verbanets. "This time, we treated the album as a recording project separate from what folks might be used to from our live band."

He tosses out the terms "demented island music" and "groove-oriented," referring to the use of shakers and vocal harmonies, which add rhythm and texture. What stands out, besides Mr. Verbanets' consistently gorgeous vocals, which recall not only Ray Davies but the Shins' James Mercer, is the album's wonderful variety.

"Gotta Clean Head" sounds like a candidate for the "Village Green Preservation Society," "Our Love" has the mood of a "Who's Next" song, "Innocent Abroad" gets crunchy like Weezer, and, if you ever wondered what it might sound like if Pete Townshend fronted the Ramones, check out "Feel it in Yer Knees."

Beyond the sonic qualities, the craft extends to the wit and tenderness of songwriting.

"The past albums were written when I was a kid," Mr. Verbanets says. "Some were songs from being a teenager, writing in your bedroom kinda stuff, more irreverent, and I didn't quite care if they made much sense to people. This time around, it's the first time I'm writing words and actually speaking for myself, not hiding behind characters, and I'd like to let the songs make a little more sense to people."

In terms of getting the music out there in the world, he says, "It's been the best year for all of us, I think. We've had songs on some TV shows (like 'Jane by Design' on ABC Family), which, like it or not, is one of the only ways people find out about rock 'n' roll-type music these days. We've gotten to interact much more closely with the community and develop closer relationships with the people around us who support our band."

The highlight, he says, may have been playing a friend's 30th birthday party. "We were asked to play a set of '90s alternative rock covers, so we got to learn a bunch of Weezer and Pumpkins songs, and people went absolutely nuts. We brought true rock to the Fox Chapel Racquetball Clubhouse."

music

Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg.


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