Iconoclastic maniac/Frog Eyes frontman Carey Mercer has multiple outlets for releasing excellent music, with Blackout Beach there for his solo material. The last album to be released under that moniker, 2009’s Skin of Evil, was a dizzying stack of Mercerian goodness, the guitarist/vocalist’s trademark sprawling songs full of ecstatic guitar and yelping, impassioned vocals. Despite the fact that Mercer has described his new Blackout Beach disc, Fuck Death, as “a sibling” to that previous release, this one finds the eccentric writer focused on synths and electronic drums more often than his traditional instrumentation.
The sprawling, seven-minute “Beautiful Burning Desire” opens the disc in an epic tone, shimmering clouds of synths fading into a morbid, sparse percussion and arpeggio world. His talk of funeral fires and the need to run away mimics the slippery, chugging guitar that pulses in after a few minutes. This album is, definitively, Mercer’s response to the chaos of the world, and as he put it in the accompanying press release, the need for today’s kids “to live on an invisible beach within their hearts and party this stuff away” (a feeling captured wonderfully on the album’s cover alone). The heavily distorted, obliterated, feedback-y soundscape on “Torchlights Banned”, then, is the darkness creeping in. When Mercer and Frog Eyes bandmate Megan Boddy harmonize that “your love is all I should cherish,” they’re looking for someone to hold onto in the cacophonous sea, the dive-bomb of sound that exits the song proving the difficulty of such a task.
Whether it’s in the happy acoustic guitar and description of sweet, hilly landscapes on the all-too-brief “The Deserter Song”, or the wordless backing vocals and poppy rhythm on “Be Forewarned, The Night Has Come”, there are flashes of true escape from the bleak world that Mercer portrays so well. Often, Mercer’s songs capture some imagined otherworld full of Russian berries and Akhian presses, and that continues on “Hornet’s Fury into the Bandit’s Mouth” and the biblically massive “Drowning Pigs”, but as a whole, between the synth percussion bombed-out bleakness, this album hits a very modern note, one that justifies its separation from being just another Frog Eyes record in its insular worldview and altered sound.
Essential Tracks: “Beautiful Burning Desire”, “Hornet’s Fury into the Bandit’s Mouth”, and “Torchlights Banned”