Frog Eyes Frog EyesPaul's Tomb: A Triumph
I’m not sure if I would like to have Mr. Mercer as my high school English teacher. On one hand it would be cool to compare him with Philip Seymour Hoffman and imagine him like we see him in “ Happiness” (which would give rise, without a doubt, to millions of urban legends about his deficient social skills). But on the other hand, he would give me the willies a little, with that air of a corrupted soul, mental psychedelics, which would probably only give an aura of respect (and a graveyard silence) in the classroom to the (real-life) English teacher who is the voice of Frog Eyes. Although we’re talking about a respect earned by fear, inspired by his way of singing with rumblings from beyond the grave, and butcher-shop music (interpret that however you want to). They're not a band that’s easy to listen to, that’s clear. And they weren’t going to change for “Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph.” Why should they? That’s their identity. Distant offspring of the paranoid life of Joe Meek, the consequence of making music for radioactive worlds, like Xiu Xiu does, the band started off after the break-up of Mercer’s first band, Blue Pine, with the recruiting of Spencer Krug (from Sunset Rubdown and Wolf Parade). Then came the collaborations of Dan Bejar (from Destroyer and The New Pornographers) for the super-group Swan Lake, which probably hasn’t done anything but publicise the album we’re talking about now.
With reverbs, sliding falsettos, avalanches of sound, and dry drums beating like an arthritic heart, Mercer makes a face like your English teacher giving you a zero, and he dresses like a gentleman, Nick Cave-style , to unleash his peculiar flood of words or vocal diarrhoea, unpleasant, nightmarish, an echo of the hell that you nevertheless become addicted to. The key is a sensual Captain Beefheart French kiss with The Ramones in the worst corner of the worst truck-stop bar that you can imagine (run by “ Crime And The City Solution”). And obviously one can’t head for home after that feeling overjoyed, shall we say. We find anger in “Odetta’s War,” desolation in the epic “A Flower In The Glove,” the Bad Seeds at a funeral in “The Sensitive Girls,” and Tom Waits on too much coke in “Rebel Horns,” where sometimes we hear Mercer, and at other times we hear a Doberman barking. There’s dirtiness in “Styled By Dr. Roberts,” and the foundations of Neo-Satanic rock in “Violent Psalms.” Except for the wonderful, bittersweet (and also corrupted) “Lear In The Park,” which is instrumental, the rest of the songs are vocal progressions from delirium with bases that are as black as tar.
But have no fear. In spite of the darkness, there’s a silver lining behind the cloud, a space where we can take Mercer by the hand and let ourselves be carried away by his tics and his microscopic falsettos as if instead of being with a ghost, we were with an imaginary friend who is confessing his innermost thoughts and feelings to us, who has no better therapy than to talk and talk, while we just listen and listen.