Foo Fighters bassist Nate Mendel becomes a guitar-wielding frontman on Lieutenant’s “If I Kill This Thing We’re All Going to Eat for a Week,” too modest to argue that there’s another blazing all-in-one talent hiding in Dave Grohl’s mighty shadow. Modesty might be the point: Recalling the Alan Parsons Project not just in Mendel’s soft vocals but also in the prog-pop airiness, there’s little of his main band’s clarity or power, replaced with a casualness that sounds like Mendel won’t, or can’t, let loose. “Some Remove” is so casual that it seems to float from the listener’s grasp, while the crisp, melodically inventive “Prepared Remarks” remains stubbornly laid-back. Which isn’t to say it’s slapdash: The songs are impeccably layered, but like tiramisu, those layers bleed into one another, so that even a relative rocker like “Rattled” gets lost in its own swirl. Even as he steps forward, Mendel has a natural tendency to hang back. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Prepared Remarks“Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.