Frog Eyes’ Triumph

25 11 2010

Nick Lyons takes a lengthy look at Frog Eyes’ latest album

It is a curious and rather unfortunate reality that reviewers are often given very little time to listen to and think about an album before writing about it. I have found over the years that the albums which have come to mean the most to me have revealed themselves slowly: a good album does not skip the foreplay. Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph by Victoria’s Frog Eyes is one such album. Let me tell you why.

I got “the album” (I use quotations as my initial copy was ripped; in my own defense, I have since bought its vinyl incarnation, which has only fed my already potent addiction) two weeks before it came out and was proud to let everyone know that I got to listen to it before most. Monday Magazine received an advance copy, probably in hopes of getting a review. We didn’t give them one until now, well after both of the band’s tours (including a show for Rifflandia, which I sadly missed due to wedding obligations) have come to a halt. Sorry, guys; let me try to make up for lost time.

In many ways, it is fortuitous that I have waited until now to start writing about it for it has taken this long to settle. At first, I didn’t like it because I was expecting an album more akin to the band’s previous work. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have. The band has gone through many of changes since Tears of the Valedictorian (which is equally good though very different), most notably in lineup. Now bereft of Spencer Krug (Frog Eyes front man Carey Mercer’s collaboration with Krug now limited to the Swan Lake sessions) and without a bass guitarist, the band chose to replace both with multi instrumentalist Megan Boddy, who lends her keyboards (both regular and bass) and vocal talents to Paul’s Tomb. The change in lineup has led to a vastly different sound.

Paul’s Tomb begins with the sprawling “Flower in a Glove” which, weighing in at over nine minutes long, sets an epic (God, I hate that word) tone for an equally epic (uggh) recording. It is an interesting choice in sequencing, throwing down the glove(s) immediately. The album would have had a very different feel had it opened with a less challenging track such as “The Sensitive Girls” or even “Styled By Dr. Roberts.” But Frog Eyes chooses to lead us through seemingly innumerable transitions at the album’s very outset, creating an ornate, multi faceted gate through which we must wander before even catching a glimpse of all that is Paul’s Tomb: a bold move indeed. And so it begins.

Carey Mercer’s voice has always been a favourite topic of discussion when critics speak of Frog Eyes’ recordings, and for good reason. I’ve always struggled to find the right adjective to describe the man’s beast moan as I foist the band upon friends and visiting relatives. I’ve used “barbaric,” “frantic,” “manic,” “contemplative” . . .  none of which really do it justice. Listening to the album just the other night, however, my wife stumbled upon the perfect word to describe the voice: “emotive.” Indeed, with astounding range, Mercer takes us from exhalant to tortured, sometimes within seconds. He yips, howls and shrieks for our attention and yet the band is largely ignored on the popular level, forced to swallow their pride, recently opening for young Japandroids on their transcontinental tour. It is nothing short of tragic.

Equally impressive to the range of voice Mercer engages, are his words—often indecipherable (which is why you should buy the double (!), 45 speed gatefold album on which the lyrics are printed—which bear reference to subjects diverse as Classical Mythology, street thugs and even The Doors. It is an incredibly literate and agile rawk, screamed by a barbaric tongue (William Carlos said, “The only Universal is the local, as savages, artists and, to a lesser extent, peasants know.” With Mercer, we have the occasion to hear the mongrel voice of an artist-savage, a rare hybrid indeed.) T.S. Eliot himself might even be proud of these songs, though I doubt he would enjoy them.

Mercer’s Doors reference (and this might be of my own devise—interpreting the line “never gonna break on through” in the album’s closer as a reference to the sixties cult band) is taken up by the overwhelming bass sound, unique (as far as I’m concerned) to Frog Eyes and The Doors. Like their predecessor, Frog Eyes has replaced the bass guitar with a bass keyboard; unlike the Doors, however, Frog Eyes manages to pull it off (unsatisfied with the sound of the bass-guitar on their first recording, the Doors used session bass guitar players for all the rest, only using Manzerik’s second keyboard live).

The bass comes through particularly well on the vinyl, a massive but warm zeppelin throb, underpinning, and providing a counterpoint to, shrieking guitars and vocals. I suspect that the switch in bass, from guitar to keyboard, has influenced the percussion on this album. Whereas previous Frog Eyes albums have featured a style of percussion more akin to instrumentation than rhythm, on this recording, Melanie Campbell plays in a more straight ahead way: she has made the transition with incredible ease…

I am going to stop there. I could go on endlessly about the merits of Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph, but I will leave it to you all in hopes that you discover it for yourselves. Please do so. Be patient with it and be assured that though the fruits are slow to manifest, they are of the most succulent variety. If you are unsatisfied with the album after two weeks of solid listening, please contact me: I would be happy to take it off of your hands as Christmas is almost upon us and I plan to give it to everyone and anyone I hold dear.

Nick Lyons does concert reviews and other stuff for Monday Magazine. To read Nick’s blog, visit

Calendar: Holiday Cheer

24 11 2010

Win two tickets for the Breakmen concert on December 2. Email (SUBJECT: BREAKMEN) to win!

It’s official, the holiday’s are here.

Festival of Trees – A forest of decorated trees will take root. The festival benefits the B.C. Children’s Hospital. FRIDAY-January 4 at the Fairmont Empress and Victoria Conference Centre. Free, ballots by donation. 250-389-2727,


Bear Wear – The best-dressed teddy bears will be on display. Vote on your favourite bear by donation, place bids in a silent auction or just swing by to take a look at the frills and fur. All funds go to the Queen Alexandra Foundation. THURSDAY-December 19 at the Hotel Grand Pacific (463 Belleville). Free, ballots by donation.

The Runway of Fame – UVic’s Commerce Students’ Society puts on a charity fashion show to raise money for the Greater Victoria United Way. THURSDAY 7:30pm at Club 9one9 (919 Douglas). $15. 250-893-5467.

Dinner & Dance for Guatemala – Join the Victoria Central America Support Committee and the Victoria FMLN Committee as we respond to the devastating flooding and subsequent lanslides that occured in Guatemala last summer. Proceeds go to those in need. FRIDAY, dinner 6:30pm, and dance 8pm at 1923 Fernwood. $20/$10 dance only. 250-447-0941.

Habitat for Humanity Great Gingerbread House Showcase – Forty beautiful gingerbread creations will be on display. All proceeds go to support Habitat for Humanity in the community. FRIDAY-January 2 10am-6pm at the Inn at Laurel Point (680 Montreal). Free, vote by donation.

Sunday’s Snowflakes Fashion Show – Enjoy a sumptuous lunch and great fashions at the lovely Delta Ocean Pointe Resort. Featuring designer Simon Chang, Order of Canada. SATURDAY 11am at the Delta Ocean Pointe Resort (45 Songhees). $60. 250-381-4461.

Island Farms Santa Light Parade Warm-up – Enjoy musical performances, roving children’s performers, children’s activities and complimentary hot chocolate and treats as a prelude to the Island Farms Santa Light Parade. Parade route on Government, between Bellebille & Cormorant. SATURDAY 4-6pm on Government. Free.

Oak Bay Lightup – Watch as thousands of lights on buildings, trees and lampposts come to life for the Christmas season. SUNDAY 3-6pm in Oak Bay Village. Free. 250-598-5252.

Provincial Legislature Menorah Lighting – The Jewish community marks the start of Chanukah by lighting the largest public Menorah at the front steps of the Provincial Legislature of British Columbia. WEDNESDAY 5:30-6:30pm on the front steps of the BC Provincial Legislature (501 Belleville). Free. 250-744-2770.

Calendar: Desert Bus for Hope 2010

18 11 2010

Tis the season to give as Loading Ready Run’s Desert Bus for Hope kicks of it’s 4th year on  November 19. The cast of LRR participate in this video-gaming marathon, broadcast live on the internet for your pleasure. Donate, bid on items, and make requests as the crew play part of Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors, where they must drive a bus from Tucsan to Las Vegas, and back,  in real time.  Donate to keep them playing!

All proceeds are donated to Child’s Play, a charity that donates over a million dollars to Children’s Hospitals worldwide every year, including Vancouver Children’s Hospital and Victoria General Hospital’s Pediatrics Ward.

To watch the fun and donate, visit

Calendar: Giveaways!

15 11 2010

Not only are we giving away tickets to Wil at Hermann’s (for November 18), but we’re also giving away tickets to Barney Bentall & The Grand Cariboo Opry (November 19 at Alix Goolden Hall). Email, with the tickets you’d like to win in the subject line, to win!

Calendar: Indoor fun

10 11 2010

November’s finally here, but it hasn’t stopped the events! Enjoy some indoor entertainment this week.

At least there's some fun to be had with leaves.

Win two tickets to see Wil rock Hermann’s Jazz Club with his acoustic guitar stylings on November 18 8pm. Email (SUBJECT:WIL) to win!

Pacific Wayfinders Conference – The Pacific Peoples’ Partnership is celebrating 35 years of work with communities and organisations in the South and NorthPacific. The conference topics examine peace, human dignity, cultural integrity, social justice, and environmental sustainability. THURSDAY-SATURDAY at UVic. $160/$60/$35. 250-381-4131.

African Aids Angels Open House – Select from hundreds of handmade cloth angels for gifts or decorations. Funds go to support projects in Malawi, Zambia and South Africa. SATURDAY 10am-3pm at Swan Lake Natyure House (3873 Swan Lake). Free. 250-727-0226,

Growing a Green Community – Sustainability consultant Jackie Kanyuk explains some basic concepts of green and efficient homes. SUNDAY 2-3:30pm at GVPL Central Branch (735 Broughton). Free. 250-413-0389.

International Medical Marijuana Day – (See THE WEEK). Rally at the Ministry of Health, followed by a silent art auction. MONDAY. Rally 1pm at the Ministry of Health (1810 Blanshard). Auction 4:20pm at 826 Johnson. Free. 250-381-4220.

Restorative Justice Week – Workshop, “What is Restorative Justice?” Part of National Restorative Justice Week (THURSDAY-November 21). WEDNESDAY 7-9pm at Archie Browning Sports Centre (1151 Esquimalt). Free. 250-383-5801.

What is Polyamory? –  Panel takes public questions and aims to dispel myths and raise awareness for the movement. WEDNESDAY 7pm in room C103, David Strong Building (UVic). Free. 250-507-1674.

The Annual Biology Graduate Student Symposium

4 11 2010

UVic’s Biology graduate students share their research. Fifteen minute talks will be given on the following topics and more!

– Behavioral thermo-regulation in hydrothermal vent scale worms
– The potential role of salmon farms in pathogen transmission to juvenile Fraser River sockeye salmon
– The effects of climate and landscape use on drinking water quality in BC
– The effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on oxidative stress in the adult brain
– The identification and characterization of western white pine genes for resistance to blister rust fungus

November 10 & 12 8:30am-5pm in room C103, the David Strong Building (UVic). Free and open to the public.

Calendar: Kink is in town

3 11 2010

The good weather may be gone, but there’s still fun to be had. Whether it’s kink or the circus, Monday’s got you covered.

And just to make sure you’re having fun, win Chromeo’s CD, Business Casual, by emailing (SUBJECT: CHROMEO).

This handsome CD could be gracing your bookshelf.

Recording Workshops – With the Seattle Phonographers Union. Introduction to field recording, THURSDAY 4:30-7pm. The Victoria Phonographers Union workshop, FRIDAY 7-9pm. Both at Open Space (510 Fort). $10 each. 250-383-8833.

Kink Conference – Sagacity celebrates it’s 10th birthday with a conference showcasing all things kink. FRIDAY-SUNDAY at the Harbour Towers Hotel (345 Quebec). $35-$195.

Pumpkin Smash – Give your jack o’lanterns a proper burial in Victoria’s compost bin. SATURDAY 10am-3pm at the Fairfield and Cloverdale Thrifty Foods. SUNDAY 10am-3pm at Hillside Thrifty Foods. By donation. 250-386-9676.

Theatrical Costume Sale – A wonderful selection of costumes suitable for theatre, dance and choral companies. SUNDAY 1-4pm at Academy Of Ballet (408 Superior).  Free. 250-385-2622.

National Circus School Pre-Selection Tour – A cross-Canada quest for talented young people between the ages of 9 and 17.  Registration required. SUNDAY 5pm to 8pm at Falcon Gymnastics Centre (208-721 Vanalman).

Going Green – Join Sustainable Building Consultant Phyllis Godfrey for an interactive information workshop. WEDNESDAY 7-8:30pm at GVPL Saanich Centennial Branch (3110 Tillicum). Free. 250-477-9030.

Monday Magazine’s calendar has weekly giveaways, so check the blog regularly!

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