Posted on May 26th, 2010 (4:48 pm) by Ryan Hall

Paul’s Tomb is a lot of things. It is guitars, loud guitars, Neil Young single note solo guitars, MacKaye-Picotto ping-pong-ing banter guitars. Guitars that screech, smear bridges into aggrandizing solos, solos that match the unpredictability of Carey Mercer’s voice. It is drums, start-stopping, time-changing thunderclaps of sweat-stained head bands and bulging forearm muscles testing the durability of drumsticks. Paul’s Tomb is Mercer’s victory-line sprints of staccato vocal delivery and marathon length syllable elongations. In short, a triumph.

Every promise of 2007’s excellent Tears of the Valedictorian is fulfilled in spades on Paul’s Tomb. Mercer’s beguiling vocal vamping achieves undiscovered decibels of war-cry whooping. Mercer and Ryan Beattie’s dueling guitar lines reach heroic levels of arena-sized excesses, all while sounding their most accessible and engaging. Frog Eyes walk that razor-thin line of schizoid prog-pop exuberance and structurally sound songwriting, stretching their compositions beyond the six-minute mark. Paul’s Tomb largely picks up right where the last half of Tears left off, with Mercer hitting those impossible falsettos and sea captain slurs of deep baritone in the inverted vectorscope of his vocal range, his voice weaving its way in and out of sprawling arrangements that made up side-b of that album.

Recorded in the same studio as Tears with only limited equipment changes, Paul’s Tomb roars out of the gate with what is easily the album’s strongest track. The first introduction we have to Mercer’s legion of musical voices within the sliding pitch scale comes about ten seconds after some fuzzed out preliminary guitar work on “A Flower in a Glove”. Mercer’s thundering screech is followed closely by a bass drum kick that claps like a starting pistol, signaling the start of an Iditarod of 21st century attention spans. With four songs running longer than six-minutes, Frog Eyes make themselves relatively easy to keep up with. Mercer’s closed-eyed rants grab you by the lapels and pull you beneath the sea of tumultuous time-changes and splintered power chords. Fear of drowning be damned, you are in it now. Formless, shape shifting spans usually play out each track with dual guitar drive bombs and swells floating along to Mercer’s most impassioned and expressionistic deliveries. These moments would command a certain sense of awe, if one could save himself from being swallowed up of the sheer hugeness of it all.

The album segues with relatively short tracks like the instrumental “Lear, in the Park” and the buzzing and effusive “Violent Psalms” which space Paul’s Tomb’s frenetic epics with good natured reprieves. “Rebel Horns” may be Frog Eyes’ poppiest (with a capital P) song of their career. “Rebel Horns” starts with a “whooo” in a key reserved for Beyoncé-like divas as guitars squawk and signal to each other, seemingly oblivious to Mercer’s half-tirade-half-coo before regrouping to bolster a chorus that brings all the band members together for a brief moment before finally dismissing them. “Styled By Dr. Roberts” follows a similar trajectory, corralling Frog Eyes’ collective energies around moments of anthemic bursts that recall the group’s easily name-checked colleagues.

It is seemingly impossible to write a review of Frog Eyes without mentioning the fertile Montreal soil that spawned the spiritual brotherhood between the city’s most accomplished songwriters. That’s why I left it to the last paragraph. Frog Eyes have legs of their own—strong, backwards-bending Satyr legs, legs that leap to the top of Mexican barrios in a single bound. Spencer Krug, Carey Mercer, and Daniel Bejar—side-project bandmates, former roommates, and BFFs—form a daunting trifecta of hyper-literate wordsmiths who write dizzingly busy anthems, swimming in the sheer pleasure of music geekiness and mixing it up with clear moments of purely accessible public grandstanding. But to whatever extent these three exist off borrowed ideas, borrowed gear, shared thematic arcs, or penchants for abstract imagery and proper nouns, one thing is clear, none of them exist off borrowed light. Paul’s Tomb is evidence of that. Carey Mercer (whom, I perhaps should have made more clear, is not the only member of Frog Eyes), is an island unto himself—a wholly unique voice capable of creating the most triumphant of records.

Track List:
1. Flower in a Glove
2. The Sensitive Girls
3. Odetta’s War
4. Rebel Horns
5. Lear, In The Park
6. Styled By Dr. Roberts
7. Lear In Love
8. Violent Psalms
9. Paul’s Tomb

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

89 / 100
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