Notorious Lightning

Dan Bejar’s Destroyer and Carey Mercer’s Frog Eyes are both defiantly idiosyncratic bands so incongruous with their peers that any kind of collaboration would appear impossible. To say that Bejar has found his Crazy Horse could quite understandably be taken very literally. It’s not hard to picture such an eccentric sharing a stage with some sort of deranged steed or mare more than likely fastened into some fashion of tutu or ball gown and positioned behind an oversized glockenspiel. Conversely, Frog Eyes makes for a most unlikely backing band, their unhinged sonic machinations sure to overwhelm any front man or woman regardless of status or stature. Imagine an aging Bowie flailing frantic futile hands to hold back Mercer’s merry men as they lurch and launch “Ziggy Stardust” into psychedelic netherworlds never known by the Spiders From Mars. Amusing as either of these end results might be, they would surely qualify as unquestionably disastrous. Still somehow Bayer’s bi-polarism and Mercer’s schizo-frenetics round off eachother’s rough edges yielding a more palatable product from both parties.

Notorious Lightning and Other Works reinvents six songs from Destroyer’s Your Blues as they were performed on tour with Frog Eyes playing The Band to Bejar’s Dylan. Moving away from the intentionally isolationary synthetics of the original efforts, every track improves with Frog Eyes filling up the backdrop with their unnerving, nervous clatter-crash and strum. This new setting pushes Bejar beyond the detached ironic smirking of Your Blues, eschewing intellectualism in favor of flat-out rocking. His lyrics are bolstered by this approach suffering no loss of genius yett not smacking so much of overt cleverness. If anything at all is lost in these translations it is only the arty pretension that teetered on the edge of off-putting anyhow.

Frog Eyes turn in an unexpectedly impressive performance as well. Their theatrics are not so impressive as their restraint as they yield the spotlight to Bejar’s voice and words and fill up the space behind them with complimentary counterpoints. The wounded wailing and scattershot caterwauling six-string fuckery that runs rampant over their own records is reigned in and unleashed only as accentuation. Mercer’s histrionic hiss and whisper shriek even prove a surprisingly harmonious balance to Bejar’s Bowie yelps and helium bellows.

The relative lack to which this effect is employed is one of the few flaws with the release. Everything is good here but there is just simply not enough of it. There needs to be more Mercer in the mix and more songs altogether. It would have been especially nice to see the two tackle something more resistant to the rockist tendancies indulged in here, like the flute-laced frivolity of “It’s Gonna Take An Airplane.”

Still, it’s a testament to the strength of the release that the only complaint is that there’s just not enough of it. With more tour dates booked together into 2005, the hope remains for future collaborative releases from Destroyer and Frog Eyes. For now, Notorious Lightening and Other Works serves as a great introduction to both artists.

Listen to how great "New Ways of Living" is on Your Blues...

Then listen to how Frog Eyes makes the same song impossibly more awesome on Notorious Lightning and Other Works.

Buy Your Blues from Destroyer.

Buy Notorious Lightning and Other Works because it's even better.

Buy The Golden River from Frog Eyes because it's simply amazing all on its own.

Read my review of Frog Eyes' The Folded Palm.