When the frontman of an established band starts a side project, it receives both criticism and praise from fans. Just ask Jack White.
When John Darnielle, lead singer and guitarist of The Mountain Goats started The Extra Lens (formerly The Extra Glenns) in the mid ‘90s with Franklin Bruno (of Nothing Painted Blue), the reception was warm. This week, The Extra Lens releases its second full length this decade, Undercard.
Darnielle and Bruno craft effortless, carefree songs, blending acoustic and electric guitars. While pianos, bells and drums make appearances on the album, the majority of the songs are pinned by complementary acoustics.
The Extra Lens
Dive verdict: 3 of 5 stars
Eloquent diction and emotive vocals are spine-tingling on “Tug on the Line” and “Programmed Cell Death,” both down-tempo and acoustic-driven. These fundamentals add depth while upbeat songs such as “How I Left The Ministry” provide expressive narratives over a more sprightly background.
But in the end, Undercard feels like an extension of The Mountain Goats’ catalog. The album demonstrates pleasant, good folk rock but shows a lack of well-rounded musical extension on the part of Darnielle and Bruno. It’s not bad, but it’s nothing new.