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Canada's Xenophonia 

The members of Frog Eyes can't keep a straight face long enough to look cool

Wednesday, May 26 2004
Frog Eyes isn't your normal rock band. Its members speak softly, even intelligently, and appear mild-mannered. Drummer Melanie Campbell in particular, with her girlish ponytails and sensible skirts, doesn't seem cut from wild-woman cloth. So when a blast of tightly wound noise hits audience members at one of the group's shows, it's as if a 6-year-old has pounded 'em in the face with a muscular right hook. A towering, shimmery, gorgeously melodic right hook.

In a musical league with the Pixies and Nick Cave, Frog Eyes offers high guitar art and keyboards of doom, which match the quartet's seriousness about making music and its complete lack of pretension. None of the players can keep a straight face long enough to look cool, and hecklers have been told to study up on their Homeric poetry. What's more, the act is Canadian, and we all know that that isn't very rock-star-like.

Another weird thing about this gang is its charismatic leader, Carey Mercer. Hailed as one of the best indie songwriters alive today, Mercer produces songs that are enigmatic, with lyrics that sound like they might have been collaged together from crumbling old storybooks: "Because you're running out the parlor again, running around with your head for a friend," he gasps in "The Hardest Night to Sleep in the Swamplands" from 2002's The Bloody Hand. But it's Mercer's voice that ultimately captivates. In lesser lungs, these songs might be insubstantial, showoff-y stuff, but in Mercer's world there's no such frailty: He's screamy, pitch-perfect, and monumental, with an unexpected near-vibrato that makes everything he sings more important.

After listening to Frog Eyes (especially live), all your rock expectations are likely to have been met or exceeded. Heart rate upped? Check. Body forced to move? Check. Wind blown through your brain? Check. Yep, this band's the real thing.

About The Author

Hiya Swanhuyser


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