Despite the bait and switch, I've been delighted by the discovery. Perhaps not delighted per se. Their oeuvre oscillates between a sort of bar-punk homage to the Clash, and a surreal, dusky lounge crooning that Angelo Badalamenti might compose if he laid off the quaaludes. It turns out that you can find a Camper Van Beethoven-esque alt country in the middle, but "delight" is nowhere to be seen. Satisfaction, on the other hand, is everywhere one turns. The instrumentation is always rich and layered, but only rarely approaches the shoegaze "wall of sound" sensory overload. Matt Berninger's baritone is aural tiramisu; smooth and sweet, but every bite carries dark and bitter undertones that are stimulating and intoxicating by turns. Having heard him meander about in search of the key during live performances, my cynical side suspects that the vocal drone is a strategic capitulation as much as it is a stylistic expression; but most of me just floats along and enjoys the ride.
The lyrics... I'm not quite ready to judge yet. It's not the free association word-gumbo of Beck's "Loser", but there's generally nothing approaching coherent narrative, either. At their best the message is clear regardless; there's a theme or a scheme that comes through even if you can't quite pin down the points where what you're hearing is actually said. There's at least one that comes across as clear as slow-grown ice, and carves me up like a holiday turkey-- but that probably says more about my state of mind than the objective clarity of the music itself.
Regardless. I recommend this strongly enough to overcome months of mostly wordless inertia. Seems like that ought to be worth a listen, at least.