[6 October 2009]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Mean Creek shows an awful lot of poise on its second album, The Sky (or the Underground). Of those two titular destinations, the Boston band aims for the former and hits it dead on. The title track itself is a giant, tumbling rock song, with a cinematic buildup and crashing payoff, that sets up the rest of the album beautifully. These guys aren’t afraid of size or breadth of sound here, from the pounding chorus of “Face of the Earth” to the thick pastoral weave of “Light Into Dark”. Mean Creek can grind with a ferocious energy, or it can soar with an airy expanse, as over each song Chris Keene sings with bracing soul and range. What’s more, Mean Creek also manages to sound fresh without feeling like it left the old behind. The Sky (or the Underground) is a new and vital sound, but one with deep roots in American music, roots that sprout sounds up out of the cracks of E Street and weave through the halcyon days at the Rat before blooming, mature and fully-formed, in the here and now. Somewhere in the space between the sky and the underground sonically, this record is one built to last. Let’s hope the rest of the country discovers what those crowds in Boston already know: Mean Creek is the genuine article.