With an opening track titled “Particles or Waves,” alluding to quantum duality and other songs that make references to Greek mythology and philosophy, one may be tempted to say that The Honeydogs’ latest album What Comes After is a bit of an unusual pop album. However, like the Minneapolis-based band’s other works, the obtuse subject matter doesn’t get in the way of catchy hooks and memorable melodies. Instead, it gives the music an added depth to reward the repeat listens that will invariably occur.
This album, the band’s tenth, harkens back to the group’s earlier works, such as their self-titled album and Here’s Luck, which worked as simple collections of songs. Their more ambitious later projects, like the concept album 10,000 Years, balanced an epic tale of a world at war with infectious tunes full of large instrumental production to match the scope of the story.
What Comes After isn’t a concept album, but it’s clearly more ambitious than the band’s earliest work and shows real growth from bandleader Adam Levy. The songs are varied and catchy, following the typical rules of pop music structure. But the subject matter is not the typical angst-ridden content one might expect. Instead it’s often somewhat cryptic, and when Levy does write a song about love, it’s more about its philosophical implications, like when he discusses it in an abstract sense in “Better Word.”
While the album is complex lyrically, there is enough comfort in the musicality of the songs themselves, so that What Comes After remains inviting and never intimidating. Listeners will likely find themselves humming along to a song before they reach a conclusion as to what it’s about. Levy manages to throw in some nice turns of phrase (such as “It’s a very thin line between vintage and vinegar” on “Death by Boredom”) that resonate even apart from the rest of the context of the song.
The album is a solid collection of Rubber Soul-style songs and a delightful return to the work of The Honeydogs from ten or so years ago. However, for their next go-around it’d be nice to see them go back to their concept-oriented material, which has led to their two best albums, 10,000 Years and Amygdala. Still, What Comes After is nothing to dismiss, as it’s a superb pop album, both energetic and inventive, catchy without being shallow and multi-faceted without being off-putting.
Printed on Tuesday, March 6, 2012 as:Honeydog's music grows more ambitious