The Folded Palm
ut is there a name for it? With The Folded Palm, their third release in as many years, Frog Eyes have once again released a record of unclassifiable ghoulish post-indie-punk wherein lead singer Carey Mercer channels Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Lux Interior for equal inspiration. It’s a frightening and exciting combination, no doubt, as evidenced by the wonderful 2003 release, The Golden River. The trend continues unabated on The Folded Palm with the songs reaching not much longer than on previous efforts (only two make it past three-and-a-half minutes) and the insanity remaining focused to the task at hand.
That task, as stated earlier, is wholly unclassifiable. This is late night carnival music, surely, but Mercer is no ordinary barker luring you into the proceedings with false promises and soothing declarations. He’s more like the car wreck that you can’t take your eyes from, frothing at the mouth, emitting the strangest of musical noises that barely make sense within the context of the songs, but somehow end up matching them perfectly. It’s a tightrope that Mercer has walked for some time now and he’s obviously become somewhat of an expert.
The longest song on the record, “Ice on the Trail” is a strong case in point. Here the band seems to emerge from nowhere, providing a steely, yet awkward groove for Mercer to play in over its five-and-a-half minute length. He transforms over its duration from “normal” Waits croon to operatic squealing to, by its end, crazed prophet, giving over the final minute to the band to finally exert their weight alone on the record. They use the time admirably, improvising on the groove already in place, with a skronked out guitar, trash can drums and what sounds like a theremin providing the instrumental chaos.
But, as is to be expected in a band where one member towers over the rest of the group so heavily, it’s Mercer that makes the album rise and fall; the songwriting is almost secondary to his antics, although admittedly it is possibly the perfect backdrop for his ranting. And it is ranting: “You better hold tight because even cancer needs a home”, “I ate a rotten berry and accosted the sea”, “Did you call yourself a shovel that was suffocating snow?”… Needless to say it’s not for the faint of musical heart. But, then again, what music that’s worth anything is solely for the faint of heart? With The Folded Palm, Frog Eyes answer that question with a wail, a squeal and a voice violently cracking as it reaches its limits.