Rhythm & Views

Handsome Furs

Plague Park, the ragged 2007 debut by couple Dan Boeckner (guitar/vocals)--of Wolf Parade fame--and Alexei Perry (electronics), was a pleasant collection of pop songs, dark and thick or airy and light in equal measure. The now-married duo is back with an even stronger album, Face Control, which uses the harsh backdrop of Eastern Europe to highlight fractured melodies, jittery guitars and a digital crust.

During the pop and fizzle of opener "Legal Tender," Boeckner's strained, emotive vocals and alienated lyrics emerge as the focal point of the album. Boeckner impressively bobs and weaves his yelps, barks and moans into the fabric of songs like the ebullient, spacey "All We Want, Baby, Is Everything."

Additionally, Perry seems to have better assessed how to texture the band's music, expertly employing her electronics and programmed drumbeats. Perry's stuttering drums on album standout "Talking Hotel Arbat Blues" are perfect complements to Boeckner's squealing guitar and barks of "I don't know but I've been told / Every little thing has been bought and sold." Meanwhile, the din of electronic squiggles that wash over closer "Radio Kaliningrad" are beautifully coupled with Boeckner's romantic guitar arpeggios.

Strong as it is, the album still stumbles around the excesses of its three, slight musical interludes; meant to connect the album, these seem unnecessarily forced and tossed off. Elsewhere, the plinking "Officer of Hearts" dawdles far too long.

Yet, such dalliances are excusable cracks on an album that excels in the gorgeously grotesque.