Nothing Painted Blue shares its Inland Empire roots and world-weary bent with the similarly quirky Possum Dixon. But in contrast to that band's tense, manic energy, Nothing Painted Blue relies more on clever lyrics than on riff-packed rock music. The band doesn't sound like anything special, just generic guitar/bass/drums stuff, but the ultra-smart lyrics perfectly convey its bitter, California-heightened sense of alienation and despair, as well as the general sense that the world is filling up with office parks, outlet malls, and horrible human beings. The Monte Carlo Method, NPB's first release since 1994's Placeholders, finds the band sounding as witty as ever. Of course, this is not an unmixed blessing. Singer and lyricist Frank Bruno is the wisecracking, attention-seeking gifted-and-talented kid at the rock 'n' roll high school, which means his songs are occasionally a little too clever for their own good. Compensating for this is the genuine, almost effortless poignancy the band can whip up in its best songs ("Shameproof Flirt," "Collage Elements," "Developer's Dream"), and the fact that the group has mastered the mean, negative, happy-sounding song: "[I'm Gonna Vanish] Off The Face [Of the Earth]" is a perfect example. It boils down to personal priorities: If you merely enjoy listening to music, so be it. But if you like listening to music with words, value a well-parsed sentence, and find something endearing about a band that apologizes for a lack of subject/pronoun agreement on its lyric sheet, step right up.