Blackout Beach Skin of Evil

[Soft Abuse; 2009]

Styles: thoughtful, softer indie-rock that doesn’t threaten, for once (but is that a good thing?)
Others: Frog Eyes, Swan Lake, Wolf Parade, Handsom Furs, Destroyer, pretty much any other export from Canada, including {Kids in the Hall}

Skin of Evil -- it’s probably been coming for a long time, a little baby slowly forming in the creative belly of an indie-rock mega-wolf. Let there be no mistakes about it: Up to this point, Carey Mercer has been an absolute wildebeest of wide-eyed indie-rock candor, so much so that at first this 10-tune treat didn’t quite tickle my bone.

And perhaps he was setting this up to be the ultimate drop-off -- not in intensity, but in volume and temperament. Mercer is no longer shouting from the mountaintop as much as politely asking for your attention, and if you’re anything like me you’ll have no problem giving it to him.

That despite the tough-sell qualities being packaged here. Most of the calling cards of Frog Eyes -- and even the last Blackout Beach record, 2004’s Light Flows the Putrid Dawn -- are drained of all emotional funding, leaving a much more naked artist stretched before thee. Skin of Evil reminds me of an outing from minimal indie composers Larsen; it has all the bare-knuckles courage of a chest-beating circus, but any trace of technical prowess is vacuumed out in favor of mood and modular stretches of music.

It lends mini-sub explorations like “Biloxi Beach” a strange echo-chamber feel, the bareness of the backdrop mimicking the staid reflections, half-belted out by a former carnival barker with a fresh sense of purpose. Often sounding as though he’s performing on an empty stage, projecting to an empty crowd, Mercer finds solace in the trappings of solo-dom, allowing himself to un-tense that vein in his neck that undoubtedly springs to life during concerts and write a mini-epic one could never pen properly with a full band in tow.

Ironically, the general listening population -- if they’re paying attention at all; hey, there’s a chance! -- will find this to be Mercer’s most accessible, enjoyable work to date. And I’m okay with that, as long as y’all give The Folded Palm another solid listen afterward, BECAUSE IT’S INSIN-- ... INCENDIARY. Thank you.

1. Cloud of Evil
2. Biloxi, In a Grove, Cleans Out His Eyes
3. Three Men Drown in the River
4. William, the Crowd, It’s William
5. The Roman
6. Woe To The Minds Of Soft Men
7. Whistle, The
8. Nineteen, One God, One Dull Star
9. Sophia, Donna, I Was Down The River Waiting
10. Astoria, Menthol Lite, Hilltop, Wave Of Evil 1982

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