Damn if Big Silver's unassuming pub rock doesn't sneak into your bloodstream and strengthen with each listen, until your head is swimming. And it's not just the Arkansas quintet's musical subtlety that makes it seem like an undercover operation: In Bizarro World, their hidden gem of a self-titled 2001 debut topped critics polls and indie charts; in this sick dimension, the band remains practically unknown. Anonymity hasn't turned out to be such a bad thing, though. Hunger has served these guys well. What's that old adage about a band getting a decade to write its debut album and a scant year to pump out a sophomore slump? Well, forget it Love Note is better than its predecessor.
The band hasn't altered the ingredients British pub rock, American power pop and tipsy honky-tonk grace. It's just improved them. Singer-songwriter Isaac Alexander's thick croon has gotten sweeter, drummer Bart Angel and shaggy bassist Kevin "the Beast" Bennett (who looks like he leaped straight out of Dr. Teeth's Electric Mayhem orchestra pit) are uncommonly fluid, keyboardist Shelby Smith dances around the ivories like Chico Marx and Booker T put together, and lead guitarist Brad Williams still pumps out spiky hooks and ambient twang, but lays back into the songs more this time around.
From the rangy grandeur of "Loved to Hate," with its playful sketch of prickly love affair, to the tragic twang of "Anything," Alexander has an offhand, veracious way with words that belies his vocal similarities to fussy wordsmiths like Costello and Graham Parker. In the stomping closer, "Rock and Roll Dreams," when Alexander sings, "I don't want to be famous, just a little attention," you believe him. But if Big Silver keeps this up, one of these days it might just have to reluctantly accept all it deserves.