Music Reviews
Swan Lake

Swan Lake

Enemy Mine


Super goth session 2009! When Dan Bejar (Destroyer), Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown), and Carey Mercer (Frog Eyes), reconvened as Swan Lake, it would be to concoct a pitch black, sodden brew of graveyard blues, Bad Seeds moans, and night terrors. With a visceral, gritty, and intimately haunted sound, guitars veer from left to right around two-fisted minor chord piano and sobbing, shuddering, wracked howls from the three singers. Enemy Mine lives up to the heady reputation of the three men, while still veering to the left stylistically, taking its cues from the last Birthday Party record, Black Heart Procession, and Angels of Light.

“Spanish Gold, 2044” sets the tone with slithering fuzz-bass anchoring sleazy guitar harmonics and twilight piano while the vocalists join together for a yowling “Yadadadum” like the Bad Seeds used to do at their best. Mercer’s lead vocal is all deep, weepy foreboding resembling a panicked Michael Gira. “Heartswarm” vibes on Jacques Brel with a vampy “Is it springtime in Paris? For that piece of shit?” delivered by Bejar in a venomous, flat hiss over airy piano chords and fuzz guitar that builds to an absolutely gorgeous climax like a Springsteen or a mirror crack’d Echo and the Bunnymen ballad played in summer twilight. It’s all about the weepers and crowd-pleasers. “Settle On Your Skin” skitters and scampers and darts indecisively like a nervous breakdown, new wave anchored by a swooping Bryan Ferry-esque vocal and laserbeam-tight instrumental whooshes, down to the “Virginia Plain” piano breakdown that ends the song. “Ballad Of A Swan Lake, Or, Daniel’s Song” features Krug’s marvelously affected Bowie-esque vocals, savoring every syllable (“borrowed an ascot to cover my eyes” is a choice fragment) over childlike organ and crashing acoustic guitars for dizzying, homemade psychedelia, with a discordant, group sung chorus (a buncha banshees all straining in different directions) bisected by zigzigging electric guitar squiggles.

“Peace” has these wondrous tortured vocal harmonies as each voice fades in and fades out, supporting one of their fellows during a particularly important word; Mercer takes a quavering lead vocal clashing with cavernous drums and burbling tapestries of guitar nets and the song ends on a triumphant coda with shouts of “Suicide!” repeated over and over again. “A Hand At Dusk” begins with intimate piano chords and Krug and Bejar singing together in a cabaret-psych smolder about summer “starting just above the knee,” before a burst of whitenoise phaseshifts the whole song into an oddly affecting declaration of love and then Mercer comes in like the voice of God to end it perfectly. “Warlock Psychologist” is distorted postpunk-industrial-Residents sounding crash and clatter that is utterly wrongfooted down to every electric bass belch and piano stab, a portentous tower of noise, over which Mercer rants and raves raggedly with Krug sagely nodding and joining in with gusto; all start to autistically repeat the line “darling’s been taken away in the car” as the song’s momentum sputters and fades, and then builds back up to a grand explosion of sunburst orchestral sound and darkling voice harmonies.

Give up yer day jobs, gents.


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