For a group full of virtuosos, the Punch Brothers refuse to dole out prodigious string-murdering sessions. On their third album in four years, the Chris Thile-led acoustic quintet relies on clockwork interplay and inspired song structure, on a rich sum-of-its-parts total that rethinks forward momentum with traditional instrumentation. "Progressive bluegrass" doesn't quite cover it. This methodology has drawn the ire of hardcore 'grassheads who just want to hear the guys leave sawdust on their fretboards. Who's Feeling Young Now? strikes a perfect balance between flash and form, running blistered fingers on otherwise scholarly templates. Perhaps this is where high-falutin' hillbilly music takes shape, or quantum-leaping Guster-ese becomes an acceptable descriptor. I also detect Bernard Herrmann banjo-funk (title track), headbanging toodle-oos ("This Girl"), speed-folk ("Flippen"), organic Radiohead fantasies (an eerily faithful cover of "Kid A"), and bouts of cinematic singer-songwriterism ("Clara"). Though look no further than the album opener, "Movement and Location," with its high-wire tension, noir-train motion, and unpredictable melody, for a four-minute lesson in new-century appropriation of the way things used to be.
THE PUNCH BROTHERS | Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville | February 23-24 @ 7:30 pm | $24 | 617.625.5700