British Columbia’s Frog Eyes have amassed a substantive body of work since their 2002 debut, and their fifth full-length offering, Paul's Tomb: A Triumph, stands hoof to horn with the best of their efforts. The inimitable Carey Mercer is still a force to be reckoned with, and his frenetic delivery and seizure-inducing lyrics are in full effect, but there is an elegance in the chaos this time around (can bile mature?) that suggests a mild sea change for the bloody pulpit, indie rock preacher/secondary school English teacher. Nowhere is that more evident than on the epic opening cut, “Flower in a Glove,” a slow-building nine-minute love rant that toasts “A saint, a flower in a glove, a night made for the raising of your glass.
Much like his ever prolific BFF, Spencer Krug, Frog Eyes’ manic ringleader Carey Mercer has finally returned to his day-job after taking time off for a couple of rewarding sojourns: first with supergroup Swan Lake (a trio that includes Krug and Dan Bejar of Destroyer) and then for his solo project Blackout Beach. Regardless of where he’s hanging his hat on any particular day, Mercer’s singular voice (literally and figuratively) remains a constant on everything he does. Arguably, this makes the whole concept of “side projects” pretty pointless for a guy like Mercer because no matter what alias he’s working under, they all sound pretty similar on account of his bracing idiosyncrasies.
If we were to take Carey Mercer and his cohorts — members of Frog Eyes, Swan Lake, Wolf Parade, etc. — as a sampling of what Canadian musicians are like, we’d assume everyone who ever picked up an accordion or pan flute north of the border was prolific, virtuosic, impassioned, and a little unhinged. But I guess that wouldn’t be quite statistically sound.
The most amazing thing about that interbred indie music scene from British Columbia, Canada is that nothing that has emerged from it has been discernibly awful. From Wolf Parade, to Sunset Rubdown, to Handsome Furs, to Swan Lake, to Frog Eyes, and all the rest, quality prevails. It might have something to do with the sharing of members, or the similarity between the sounds of the bands (and those factors are clearly interlinked), or that separately and together they've forged their own identity as a scene – something clearly on the 'indie rock' (sicks in mouth) spectrum, but somehow apart from it too.
Indie rock can sometimes seem like a figure skating competition, where those who can't make their vocals the prettiest instead aim for the highest degree of difficulty. Certain artists-- the Dirty Projectors, Joanna Newsom-- stretch the limits of the seven-note scale, crafting melodies that take longer to resolve than sentences in a German philosophy text. Others go for extremity of tone: the glass-shattering falsetto of Passion Pit, or the chest-rumbling baritone of the National.
There's no gradual buildup preparing us for the epic bellowing and thunderous guitar-crashing that make up Frog Eyes' fifth studio album. The nine-minute lead track, A Flower In A Glove, launches immediately into the Victoria band's madcap world that centres on Carey Mercer's theatrical howling and literary lyrical blasts. [rssbreak] Recorded mostly live off the floor, including some of the vocals, Paul's Tomb has a power that the band's previous albums lacked.