When are we going to realize that in Carey Mercer, North America has her sole living and deeply gasping genius?
“Genius” is not a word this reviewer uses casually. In fact, I would probably only bestow the adjective upon two artists of the last fifty years or so. First (and only because I use chronology as my guide): David Foster Wallace, author of Infinite Jest and more recently, the tragically posthumous Pale King. Wallace took his own life in 2008; accordingly, Mercer’s genius is of a solitary vintage.
If Fuck Death, which will be set loose tomorrow via Dead Oceans, is any indication, genius is happier alone. Mercer’s new album burns brilliant in front of the pale dross our society promulgates at a rate most terrifying. Fuck Death is the work of a very lonesome and tortured human being; the results are painfully superhuman.
Now in recent years, Mercer has handcrafted some mighty large boots to fill. Arriving hot on the heels (pun intended) of two masterpieces (Paul’s Tomb, A Triumph and Skin of Evil) which were released under the respective monikers of Frog Eyes and Blackout Beach, Fuck Death forces a privy, fortunate few to wait, breath baited, in line (undoubtedly alone) in front of record store’s familiar glass door to pick up a double gate-fold (we can only hope) pressing of Mercer’s most recent release; this is an album which won’t disappoint even the most dedicated fan in the slightest, I can assure you.
Fuck Death is at once a testament to beauty and to ugliness; its ambiguity guides a fortunate listener’s open ear into a wholly other realm—we are confronted with the divine as we listen, and we’re probably surprised by what we see. Sure we see Beauty, but mostly we bear witness to a whole mess of ugliness.
Upon being subject to many-a-listen of Fuck Death, my wife said something to the effect of “that guitar – it reminds me of so many mosquitoes”.
I have come to agree, be it begrudgingly (we are married, after all). There is undoubtedly an element of ugliness on Fuck Death; in fact there are several. But this immaculately informed rendering of the underbelly of the aesthetic world would, quite simply, be impossible if not for Mercer’s equally familiarity of beauty, which is so obviously (in a most subtle way) evident on the record.
We, the fortunate few who pay attention to Mercer’s recent and captivatingly prolific output, find Beauty a form most pure on Fuck Death’s third track “Deserter’s Song”. Weighing in at an anorexic one minute and seven seconds, “Deserter’s Song” is absolutely perfect—it is worth the cost of the album, and then sum (again, pun idended).
It is apt that a “Deserter’s Song” is as brief as it is beautiful. In a landscape of war-mongering psalms (the very next track boasts war’s bloody, singular mantra—“War, war, war, war is in my heart…”), the “Deserter’s Song” instills in her listener a much needed solace, especially in the context of such an abrasively beautiful album— Mercer’s black document of vengeance and bees.
Be it the ever-ticking clocks of “Drowning Pigs” or the dissonant moans of the “Broken Braying Sound of the Donkey’s Cry”, Fuck Death is an album in desperate need of fleeting beauty to counter disturbing and chaotic themes which threaten to overwhelm the sullen ear of its listener.
Miraculously, one minute and seven seconds of beauty in its most distilled incarnation manages to at once counterbalance and, in fact, trump Mercer’s best attempts at manufactured ugliness.
This is a gorgeous album. In spite of an insipid abrasion and ugliness, Fuck Death spins norms on their heads. In the vast confines of this album, ugliness is beauty; and beauty, in turn, ugliness. Go buy it now. It will challenge you for a brief eternity.