May 16, 2007

Tears of the Valedictorian-Frog Eyes

If you have never heard a Frog Eyes record then you are in for quite an experience. To call their music unique would be an understatement. The good news is "Tears of the Valedictorian" is I believe the band's most accessible work yet and in turn their greatest triumph. I have been a fan for quite a while but even I find that previous albums would place inspirational moments next to songs that were bordering on the unlistenable. To give you a quick history, Frog Eyes is the brainchild of Victoria, BC's Carey Mercer. The band also includes his wife Melanie Campbell and this generation's genius Spencer Krug on keyboards. But it is Mercer who steers the ship, his frenetic, high pitched voice set against a background of swirling, crashing guitars, drums and keyboards. "Tears of the Valedictorian" represents album number 4 and I believe its greatest strength is that the song development has evolved to its greatest level yet. The songs are longer and more epic and the music is now as interesting as the lyrics and vocals.

Opening track "Idle Songs" is a good introduction. Two minutes of breathless, frantic singing above the band's cacophony of guitars and drums. This is a song typical of the band and one of the best songs on the album. Undoubtedly the two highlights are the two longest songs. "Caravan Breakers, They Prey On the Weak and the Old" is a stunning, complex song. The pulsating guitar line four minutes in is truly sublime. I'm guessing by now you might have heard "Bushels". This song is a dark and wondrous journey into the soul of man. It seems to be about a sailor setting out for a long journey whilst protecting his bushels of wheat. This line struck me with its beauty. "Oh, though he had l-l-l-l-lot's to do, he pulled the wings off a thousand feathered singing birds oh to give the earth back its string". To try and decipher Mercer lyrics is a journey in itself. I would say the songs are written in Mercer language. Full of historical references, they relate epic tales laced with the personal and the tragic. I don't know whether these tales are based on truth or a part of a very vivid imagination. Either way they are a thing of mysterious beauty. Other highlights include the wonderful "Stockades" and the twin shots of energy "Evil Energy" and "...Eagle Energy". A major plus for this record is that Mercer allows himself very quite moments of soft beauty, which give you a respite from the frenetic pace and allows the music to breathe a little. "Tears of the Valedictorian" won't be for everyone. Its idiosyncratic nature can make it a difficult listen at times. However this is an album of massive scope and ambition, more rewarding with every listen. In years to come when this year's fashionable pop records are sent to the recycling bins "Tears of the Valedictorian" will be gathering new fans in search of the unique and beautiful.

You can buy this unique wonder from Absolutely Kosher.

MP3: Bushels

MP3: Idle Songs (lyrics below)
O the Roman ambassador
Was torn apart-apart by plaster
And reassembled after:
the 40 years of bombing:
They were wild and they were crying, in the picture
Where the smoke cleared
Tear your body from your beard
And watch as the planes burn the boats from the isle

A board is a board
When the pulpit meets the sword
And the poet has been bored
He's seen Fire and he's seen Pain
And the tedium has stained,
O Virgil, get your rake out there's a pastor to be pulled
And 60 miles west of Rome: "I stopped some dreadful hoard."

And I, I will let my body go,
And when it goes and then it stinks
There will be beauty in its stink
And the last rays of the fink
Will suppose themselves to shine
Upon the corpse of Stinking Gold
That has fallen into brine,
Idle song.

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