Reviews Swan Lake Enemy Mine

Swan Lake

Enemy Mine

n theory, this band should be really, really fucking good - a supergroup composed of three accomplished artists already involved with various supergroups of their own. Dan Bejar (Destroyer, New Pornographers), Carey Mercer (Frog Eyes, Blackout Beach) and Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown) collaborating and throwing around their signature esoteric surrealist sounds like a aural feast. Buzz surrounding Enemy Mine was understandably substantial.

Sure, their first record, Beast Moans, was a lukewarm effort, seemingly thrown together in a couple chemically-fueled jam sessions - but it did hint at the trio’s full potential. It was mangled by a disproportionate allocation of audio space between the three singers (Bejar’s influence felt much more substantial than Krug’s or Mercer’s), but there were moments of genuine genius tucked away in some of the otherwise forgettable tracks.

Enemy Mine was a chance for the band to show off their development as a unified musical partnership. It is quickly apparent, however, that this record would be another lets-take-turns-making-songs effort from the trio – a staunch middle-finger to those hoping for a consistent, united record. The album’s opening track, “Battle of Swan Lake, or, Daniel’s Song,” actually borrows lyrics and riffs from Destoyer’s “Rubies,” which could seriously not be lamer. Mercer’s yelps help to redeem the track some, but not enough to save it from Bejar’s tired pseudo-poetry. None of Bejar’s tracks would be out of place on any Destroyer album. Mercer’s aren’t much better, sounding like the worst of his Frog Eyes work – flat, unmotivated, and frankly, uninteresting. He tends to lose himself in his own elusiveness, seeming to forget he is recording music.

It is not all bad, though. “Paper Lace,” the record’s thickest and best track, features Krug lamenting, “Come run with Jackie, me and this lady.” Mercer’s subtle-but-driving synthing and Bejar’s chants make the song feel like a true collaboration, a sonic conversation between some of contemporary rock’s finest musicians.

Krug’s other spotlight track, “Settle On Your Skin,” starts off well as Mercer fires a poppish, catchy keyboard line to counter Bejar’s zesty riffs. Krug’s vocals grow increasingly dissonant and pissed off, but instead of the intense climax the song spends three minutes building towards, the band impotently breaks down and Krug offers only a flaccid “I am the ice, I am the the volcano. Que sera sera. I am the bow and I am the arrow” as the track ends, leaving us wondering what the fuck we just heard. The band is clearly toying with their listeners, but instead of coming off as brilliantly enigmatic, their conscious allusiveness just seems tacky and hollow.

There are moments on this album when Krug, Mercer, and Bejar create a cohesive sound that, like the best moments on their first album, hints at their true potential as a trio of master musicians. However, the vast majority of Enemy Mine is mired in self-referential, intentionally obtuse posturing that is simply not interesting to listen to. A bloody shame, here’s hoping Swan Lake can create a third record that actually capitalizes on their obvious capacity for greatness.

4.0 / 10Kaveh
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Jagjaguwar

2009

4.0 / 10

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