Swan Lake Beast Moans

[Jagjaguwar; 2006]

Styles: jerky, quirky rock with rancid percussion
Others: Frog Eyes, Destroyer, Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, The New Pornographers

Reportedly, the members of Swan Lake — Frog Eyes' Carey Mercer, Destroyer's Dan Bejar and Wolf Parade's Spencer Krug, who have all worked together for years — wrote their contributions to Beast Moans separately. And it shows; as fragmented as it could possibly be, Moans sounds like more of a prolonged sigh that's been chopped into bits and thrown into ProTools with little thought of sequencing or structure. Which begs the question: Why record an album 'together' when it seems like each member was isolated in a sound-proof chamber? Why 'collaborate' on a 'group project' when you're essentially going to mash a bunch of solo material together? Why? Why? Why? Why? Wh- [oops, the CD's skipping]...

And I'm back. And I digress: Why couldn't we have heard a more unified effort? Why is it so hard for these dudes to step out of their comfort zone? Why did these talented indie fops put so little work into this album? Most of these lethargic tracks lay out like a so-so B-side its creator could have written with his other band. Conversely, each and every time an effort is made to conjure something a little outside the box, the number is hit and BANG, quality, sincerity and mind-melding knock together blissfully like a red-hot Metallic Falcons track (a much better collab that came out earlier this year).

I can say with a straight face — and with very little dignity retained — that "All Fires" actually made me cry — no, WEEP — just a week or two ago, its billowing, saintly melody perfectly soundtracking the most dreaded airport drop-off of my life. Krug is really going THERE on this number, to that place Jeff Woods' Lester Diamond (in Casino) is talking about when he's asking Sharon Stone, "Where are you? You're in that place again..." This is a next-level track, one that sees a trademarked indie-rock presence trying on a new hat. There's always the risk that it won't fit, but if it DOES, you wear it out of the store and ask the salesperson to dispose of your old one.

That kind of imagination just isn't in the cards for the majority of Beast Moans. "The Partisan But He's Got to Know" is an awful flub of a Frog Eyes outtake, with literally the worst, sloppiest electric guitar riff EVER drenched by drippy-ass synths, bells, and other instruments that congeal into a deplorable mess. I don't know why AllMusic — which inexplicably, ignorantly gave this piece of excrement 3.5 stars — said Bejar handles this one, because it's Mercer all the way, and it's terrible.

Bejar DOES sing on the next track, and it's just as formless, likely liquidated from a huge B-side warehouse. For all the character the part-time Pornographer injects into his voice, this ditty is soulless as a female lead in a Russ Meyer movie. "The Pollenated Girls" is yet another shiftless hack-job of a song, and after "Bluebird" offers a semblance of worth, "Are You Swimming in Her Pools" redacts and retracts this glimmer of hope, putting in a final, weighty argument for a session drummer, as this and most of the other songs plod along forever without kicking into action, likely because the only rhythms come from random 'clack's, tambourine, and some lazy, mismatched drum-machine putter-putter.

This is easily the biggest disappointment of 2006. I LOVED A Hundred Miles Off. I didn't dislike Fishscale. I even dug First Impressions of Earth quite a bit. Beast Moans? Empty, hollow, almost worthless... fuckin' BUSH LEAGUE, man. Any good marks this album gets is based on indie cred alone. DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE!!!

1. Widow's Walk
2. Nubile Days
3. City Calls
4. A Venue Called Rubella
5. All Fires
6. The Partisan But He's Got to Know
7. The Freedom
8. Petersburg, Liberty Theater, 1914
9. The Pollenated Girls
10. Bluebird
11. Pleasure Vessels
12. Are You Swimming in Her Pools?
13. Shooting Rockets

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