by carl wilson

1. Frog Eyes - The Golden River

So many elements contribute to making a "record of the year" for any avid listener. It's not an accident that this is among the least-known of the albums on the list - when a friend in Vancouver brought me out to a gig by this Victoria, BC-based band in the spring, I got to experience the joy of discovery, like unwrapping a birthday present or hearing a secret whispered in your ear... though in this case, Frog Eyes resident genius Carey Mercer was bellowing, howling, moaning and crooning that secret to a lot of quite drunk, quite young Vancouverites in a downtown bar. Later, in the summer, I saw them at Wavelength in Toronto and got to share the secret with a bunch of friends at my own local nerve centre. So that's one kind of pleasure.

There's also the pleasure of recognition: Mercer reminds me more of Pere Ubu's David Thomas - I admit it, an idol - than just about anyone in rock has managed to do, even though his style is so much his own that I am not even certain Mercer's ever listened to Ubu. The similarity is in the unlikeliness of each man for the rock-star role, and yet how fully - to overflowing - they each fill it. When Mercer's not singing, he seems like a mild-mannered, conservative professional, the good husband (to Frog Eyes' drummer, actually) and provincial, Vancouver Island guy that he probably partly is. But when he performs, he is inhabited by ancient animus, infused into him by the bacchanalian swirl of the music, organs and drums and guitars that recalls carnival, the baroque, Wagner, psychedelia and the likes without ever becoming over-complicated or fussy.

Getting the album (the band's second, though I've yet to pick up the first, The Bloody Hand) and especially the lyric sheet was another revelation: Like Thomas's, Mercer's singing style obscures the words, so you can't tell how absolutely original his song structures are, how his imagery seems like a contemporary-Canadianized rendition of the paintings of Brueghel, Goya and Bosch, an environmental and social manifesto of certain import but unsure meaning.

Stimulated by all that, I wrote a couple of my best pieces this year about this album - for C Magazine and The Globe and Mail -and I am grateful for the booster shot for thinking about music that the disc turned out to be.

And as a result, and this is almost always the best measuring stick, I simply felt compelled to put this one in the player more often than anything else this year.

On Record | Posted by zoilus on Saturday, January 10 at 1:57 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)



frog eyes are spectacular

Posted by dan on April 4, 2004 12:00 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson