Carey Mercer has never written tidy, easily digested songs, and he’s certainly not about to start, with an album called Fuck Death, loosely themed about war deserters. To say that his more somber Blackout Beach work is a total departure from his main project Frog Eyes, is to ignore some of that band’s best bits, where he stops screaming Miltonian verse for a minute, drops the knotted guitar, and lets his compositions clear up. The instrumentation is striking, though. The decaying synth tones and wayward drum-machine beats are more akin to avant-ambient artists like Oneohtrix Point Never than current work of Canuck compatriots Dan Bejar or Spencer Krug. But with the unmistakable singing voice of a recently scalded scholar, even his chilliest experiments will never be faceless.
Songs on Fuck Death, like the appealingly empty “Torchlights Banned” or the tense, apocalyptic “Broken Braying of the Donkey’s Cry,” are softened by Megan Boddy’s well-deployed backing vocals. Mercer’s preferred form is the epic, though, and the nearly 13-minute “Drowning Pigs” is this record’s center. He’s got a great knack for switching background textures just in time to highlight an opaque lyric and build it into a prophetic mantra. The structure of these songs is so bizarre that making sense of them entirely might be impossible, but there are moments of great impact. It’s a record about running away. Resisting that impulse in the face of its unapologetic prickliness yields some reward.