steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

blankred.jpg (4669 bytes)
blankred.jpg (4669 bytes)
blankred.jpg (4669 bytes)
blankred.jpg (4669 bytes)

Frog Eyes

"Paul's Tomb: A Triumph" CD

Dead Oceans

Genre: rock decimated

Victoria, BC

April 2010

Carey Mercer babbles and yowls feverishly as guitars rain down, blaring, in torrents. Yes, it's the new Frog Eyes album, and it treats the conventional rock song as nothing less than the most nefarious of villains, worthy of ridicule, disfigurement, and systematic disembowelment. And those grisly sentiments are brashly carried out by these could-be-geniuses, as shredded pop debris is buried under a tremendous heft of ragged guitar, skronky keys, and cataclysmic percussion.

Although it has been broken into 'songs,' Paul's Tomb is more like one big-ass adventure cleaved into nine parts, each one a momentous cavalcade of urgent, hideously alluring chaos. As per usual, a large focus is directed towards the interplay between Mercer's desperately swooping vocals (which recall, remarkably, Gareth Liddiard's at their most intense) and his and Ryan Beattie's expansive guitar work. From my vantage point, one of the band's greatest feats is their ability to seamlessly fit their music's various elements together – a formidable challenge when one deals in experimental art-rock of this sort. On a track like “Lear in Love,” for example, the troupe drape vocals over an instrumental background that's constantly metamorphosing, swirling around through meandering quiet moments and battered sheets of guitar. It works.

However, the inevitable result of burning convention at the stake is an inevitable hierarchy wherein atmosphere and dynamics typically find themselves above populist notions like melody. Which, to clarify, does not mean Paul's Tomb is bereft of hooks, only that its carnal appeal must be gradually unearthed from beneath the squalor, an effort which yields generous dividends upon multiple listens; if you crave proof, consult the heroic vocal melody adorning the climax of “A Flower in a Glove,” the burned-out chords amid “Paul's Tomb,” and the propulsive glory of call-to-arms “The Sensitive Girls.”

To put it mildly, the bulk of Paul's Tomb is an enrapturing vortex of sound – albeit one that requires a bit of testing the water before one is able to comfortably bask in its charms. With that said, at certain parts of this record the band is guilty, perhaps, of taking their avant-garde leanings a bit too far. On this front, I must single out “Styled by Dr. Roberts,” whose whooping, effusive expansiveness threatens to wear the listener's patience down, sitting as it does in the middle of an album built entirely out of unapologetically expansive songs. Ultimately, however, it's one of few minor qualms I have with Paul's Tomb; surely, not every experiment is going to pull through with flying colours, but overall, this record is a pretty victorious affair.

frog eyes' myspace

"Lear in Love":

Michael Tau

[Vitals: 9 tracks, distributed by the label, released April 27, 2010]