Some sequels don't suffer for being retreads of their predecessors. Evil Dead 2 is basically the same movie as The Evil Dead, just slightly goofier. On 12 Desperate Straight Lines, Michael Benjamin Lerner—our Bruce Campbell, if you will—picks up exactly where he left things on 2009's Telekinesis!
The first words of album opener "You Turn Clear in the Sun"—Lerner sings, "We fell in love in the summer," still Mac McCaughan-ish in pitch—invoke "All of a Sudden" from Telekinesis! with shocking fidelity. It's not a variation on a theme; it's the theme stated even more emphatically.
With both Telekinesis and the Evil Dead films, there's a lot to admire in the clarity of their vision. Lerner knows exactly what kind of world he wants to create: breezy and bittersweet power pop that jangles and whomps with abandon. The Cure-ish guitar line on "Please Ask for Help" almost feels dissonant in how specific a reference it is. Lerner's usually interested in creating timeless pop songcraft, so that we're invited to imagine "Car Crash" playing on the radio at a 1957 beach blanket party, a '70s kegger or a black-lights-and-bongs party in 1966.
12 Desperate Straight Lines is a clear case of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," and it's a beautiful record, playable as hell. But I think we should expect something new in whatever Lerner does next. Something medieval, perhaps? Partner him up with Joanna Newsom, and see what happens.