Music Reviews
Tears of the Valedictorian

Frog Eyes Tears of the Valedictorian

(Absolutely Kosher) Rating - 7/10

The maniacal frontman backed up by the nervy backing track is a format as old as rock itself, from Elvis' herky jerky rendering of Blue Moon of Kentucky to the excesses of Captain Beefheart and the dribbling insanity of David Thomas with Pere Ubu. Let's face it, Charlie Patton and Son House never sounded like hallmarks of sobriety either. Coming unglued on record is a proud and noble tradition, and here to carry it on is Carey Mercer and Frog Eyes, who stand on the brink of madness for 30 minutes of Tears of the Valedictorian before falling completely well into the 9 minutes of Bushels. After this extensive breakdown on the penultimate track, the comatose My Boats They Go can only be an afterthought, though an entirely appropriate one.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Hailing from the amazingly fertile environs of the Pacific Northwest, specifically Victoria, British Columbia, Frog Eyes seems determined to be heard, judging by the infernal racket they generate on Valedictorian. The energy level is cranked up to 11, Carey Mercer's vocals are in a constant state of agitation, and the band certainly has a problem relaxing. All of this is noteworthy and even admirable, but when you grab somebody by the throat and scream in their face you'd better have something compelling to say to them or pretty soon you're just going to get irritating. On this score, Tears is an uneven success. Fortunately, the band infuses enough melody and dynamic variety to keep things interesting for a good portion of the disc, though there aren't as many brilliant moments as you might like for such an attention-grabber. This may be a point of contention but to my ears the best moments are frequently the most focused ones, as on Evil Energy, the Ill Twin of... and to a lesser extent, it's companion follow-up, ...Eagle Energy. Counterintuitively, the best and most focused drop of these Tears is the lengthy Bushels. The song is broken up into sections, a straightforward though manic opening, a slow burning, almost anthemic middle, and a fascinating ending in which Mercer completely loses his shit in a remarkably listenable way. I could have done with bushels of Bushels.

On the downside, while this may not be a casual listen, it doesn't always reward the constant attention it demands. Too few moments jump off the cd and set your head reeling, as Bushels does. Still, lovers of schizo-rock will have plenty to revel in. It's always refreshing to hear someone carry the torch for the one quality that always set this music apart - its flirtation with madness and loss of control.