After ten albums with The Magnetic Fields and a whole host of equally productive side projects, critics have pretty much stopped bothering with the actual content of Stephin Merritt’s tunes, assuming that after the requisite six month break between Merritt-related projects, the tracks will still be charged with the compelling characters, poeticism, and biting humor as they were before his brief respite (and they often are). Conversation surrounding Love At The Bottom Of The Sea instead centered on Merritt’s bold and shocking choice to return to the bargain bin keyboard sounds of early Magnetic Fields efforts after years of trading in the far more practiced and professional sonics of his most beloved records.
What this conversation ignored was Future Bible Heroes, the twee-as-funk songwriting partnership between Merritt and Boston-based indie pop scene vet Christopher Ewen. But don’t feel bad if you too missed out. While Merritt is keen to remind you of his existence with an album release every full moon, Future Bible Heroes, after candy-coated diversions from Merritt’s day job, have lain dormant since 2002. Now Ewen and Merritt are back, with longtime Merritt collaborator and FBH vocalist Claudia Gonson in tow, for a collection of songs that both continues in the spirit of Future Bible Heroes’ whimsical keyboard detritus and reaches back to Merritt’s origins in brittle synth and drum machine backing.
Despite the fact that this new LP plays heavily to Merritt’s inclinations toward kid-on-a-carousel constructions, he’s continued to write what he knows — gearing his lyrics toward aging, loss, death, and romantic dissolution. “Let’s Go To Sleep (And Never Come Back)” features Gonson smiling into the void over the happiest synth part Duran Duran never wrote. It’s one of the cheerier odes to suicide ever penned (Merritt has to have at least five of the top ten on that list), and it’s just par for Partygoing’s course. If there’s a party here, it’s a wake, OMD is the house band, and Merritt is in the corner with a frown plastered on.
Essential Tracks: “Satan Your Way Is A Hard One”, “Let’s Go To Sleep (And Never Come Back)”