Ah, the "supergroup": In all but the rarest of cases, they're so much less than the sum of their parts. Ugly Casanova is no different, though its lineup is a real head-scratcher: Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock, Black Heart Procession's Pall Jenkins and Brian Deck, and Califone/Red Red Meat's Tim Rutili. Funereal math rock served up with a can of Bud and Can-like drumming. Less Superfriends than X-Men, but what the hell.
There are moments on the erstwhile troupe's recently released Sharpen Your Teeth where the band members' heterogeneous styles mix and emerge as a sound wholly different from any of their full-time outfits. "Hotcha Girls" is one affecting example: There's a smattering of Brock's idiosyncrasies, Jenkins's sensual brooding, and Califone's skewed post-rock at work here, all in the service of a rather simple and pretty little country song.
Most of the time, however, the songs are so marked by Brock's highly individual vocal style, his counterintuitive melodic sense, and his way of sounding lost in his own simple lyrics that they come off like near-miss Modest Mouse: math rock minus the math, given a more ramshackle rhythmic treatment, and arrayed with a broader sonic palette. And it's pretty likely that Brock's growling will dominate the tone of Ugly Casanova's gigging. But, as always with supergroups, the urge to see all those personalities playing with -- and off -- each other should prove irresistible.