Artist: Blackout Beach
Album: Fuck Death
Record Label: Dead Oceans
The title of Carey Mercer’s latest album, Fuck Death, wasn’t born of brash punkiness. It was inspired by the title of a Leon Golub painting, one the vast amount of disparate elements, artistic and otherwise, that influenced the shape of this three-years-in-the-making record. Mercer mentions Michael Herr’s book on the Vietnam war as one of the works that stirred him, alongside Kraftwerk albums and Iraq.
Assigning a number rating to a serious work such as this one seems like a pretty glib thing to do, especially as this is a record that takes a long time to process. Not as long as it took to create, of course, but I couldn’t help thinking that one of the various targets of Mercer’s seething, repeated vocal opening line to “Hornet’s Fury into the Bandit’s Nest” might be listeners and critics who skim over the work on this record with one hand on the skip button, dipping beaks in but not spending the proper evaluative time that each of these tunes deserve. Even that reading of a song that becomes lyrically complex and mysterious, driven into dark territory by viciously picked guitar arpeggios, quickly seems shallow and easily dismissible, as Mercer begins to delve into the topics that he claims the songs on this record address: Beauty and War.
A grand pronouncement, yes, and those seeking irony-laden cleverness out of every lyric and cheeky musical reference to so-like-bad-it’s-obviously-great genres from the musical past will find plenty of other current allibums to enjoy. Mercer addresses his grand subjects with seriousness, humility, and even rage, against a musical backdrop that sounds as calculated as good Klaus Schulze but as volatile as some of the wilder steppings of Nick Cave.
Most of this music was composed in solitude, and it may be best enjoyed that way, as well. Away from those philistines Mercer talks about, whoever they might be.