Bitten by bittersweet

Mar 7, 2001 at 12:00 am

Everything in the Volebeats’ world — everything — is bittersweet. Even when compared to the emotional ghost town midwinter of its last album, the painfully honest, but painfully bleak Solitude, Mosquito Spiral carries with it always the air of late-night bordering on early morning; the red-rimmed eyes and the sigh before you admit exactly what’s on your mind to your lover or your late-night friend.

That said, Mosquito Spiral is also the closest the Voles have come to sounding sunny in a long time. The Volebeats may not be a giddy bunch, but that doesn’t mean the band can’t crack a wry smile and rock out every now and then.

Mosquito Spiral includes, finally(!), two longtime staples of the Volebeats, live set: “Radio Flyer” and “Voles in NYC.” Both are co-written by guitarist Bob McCreedy and singer Jeff Oakes and represent the Volebeats at their wistful and bouncy pop best, respectively. Throughout the record, vocal duties are, as always, shared between Oakes and Matthew Smith — with Oakes taking the high, lonesome road and Smith embodying the clear-eyed emotional heartbreak of Midwest midnight, simultaneously declarative and uncertain. While Solitude was a stunning exercise in evocative mood, Mosquito Spiral is the distillation of that mood, mixed into the closest these five Detroit men will come to a greatest-hits record.

Brilliant to the core.

E-mail Chris Handyside at [email protected].