Frog's Eyes - Paul's Tomb: A Triumph - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Frog's Eyes - Paul's Tomb: A Triumph

by Rich Morris Rating:4 Release Date:2010-04-13

Theatrical Canadian alt-rockers Frog Eyes return here with their eighth long-player, and their sound is as expansive and grand as ever - possibly more so. As before, frontman Carey Mercer's emotionally overwrought vocals are the central focus on most songs. With his howling, testifying vocal style, Mercer recalls Captain Beefheart, Frank Black and Pere Ubu's David Thomas. All laudable reference points. Unfortunately, it's hard to avoid the fact the singer his melodramatic and somewhat butch wailing most closely resembles is Meat Loaf, and once you've noticed this, the whole record begins inexorably morphing into a fuzz-toned, alt-rock Bat Out of Hell (I, II or II, take your pick). Interminable, multi-sectioned opening track 'A Flower and a Glove' could actually be an alt-rock retooling 'I'd Do Anything for Love (but I Won't Do That). You can decide for yourself if that sounds like a great idea.

Elsewhere, the main problems are length and lack of variety, which combined serve to ruin some promising songs. 'Odetta's War' sounds like one of The White Stripe's more elemental moments of blues rock, but at six minutes of unfocused riffing, it simply outstays its welcome. Similarly, there is absolutely no need to stretch the initially likeable rockabilly of 'Styled by Doctor Roberts' to seven minutes and beyond. This unwillingness of reign in the histrionics permeates the album, making tracks like 'Rebel Horns' into emotionally-demanding, tiresome affairs. It doesn't help that you begin to suspect that, were this surface layer of show-boating to be removed, what you'd be left with would actually resemble a serviceable Kings of Leon record. In fact, if Kings of Leon attempted to remake Pink Floyd's towering work of stadium rock over-indulgence, The Wall, this might well resemble the result.

There are a few precious moments of light. 'Violent Psalms', on which Mercer shares vocal duties with new member Megan Boddy, sounds like Vangelis reimagining Nick Cave's duet with Kyle Minogue on 'Where the Wild Roses Grow'. The pulsing electronic drone which underpins its Southern Gothic waltz creates a genuine sense of disquiet and, for once, when the maelstrom of guitar arrives it feels justified. 'Lear, in the Park' is also a simply lovely instrumental piece, consisting almost solely of guitar washes and subtle electronic bass. It's the kind of moment of unaffected prettiness which Eno liked to inject into his more austerely experimental albums in the 70s and 80s.

These few scrapes alone are not enough to save Paul's Tomb: A Triumph, however. Overall, the album is a draining, self-indulgent work whose makers appear to have almost no conception of when enough is enough.

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