Carey Mercer insists that Fuck Death, the third album by his solo project Blackout Beach, “is not a political record.” He’s lying. Or perhaps he has a different idea of what a political record is than the rest of the world, which is a very real possibility; after all, his work with his main outfit—the epic, arty Frog Eyes—has always exhibited an obsession with the mercurial, subjective nature of the human mind. Throughout Fuck Death’s eight tracks, Mercer’s lyrics are cryptic and imagistic, if not indecipherably garbled. But the message is ominous and omnipresent: Death, conceptually speaking, is a human invention, and we can’t stop pushing the button.
Mercer does drops a few solid clues—the minute-long dirge “Deserter’s Song”; the shivering “Sending Postcards To A Ghost”—but the deal is sealed with the album’s centerpiece, “Be Forewarned, The Night Has Come.” Weaving dreamily through a barrage of staccato synths that sound like digitized gunfire, Mercer sings in his best Bowie-in-Berlin croon, “War, war, war, war, war, war is in my heart / For all the endings, war is in my heart.” His layered, overlapping voice becomes a fugue of war. And on the austere “Torchlights Banned,” he channels Peter Gabriel through a skeletal instrumental as he duets with fellow Frog Eye Megan Boddy: “We all shall be cleansed from the bombing / of the sun’s burning rays.”
Granted, waxing metaphorical about war during wartime doesn’t necessarily amount to being political. The alchemy between Mercer’s words and his music, though, makes it inescapable. Blackout Beach’s second album, 2009’s Skin Of Evil, is stuffed with shadows and echoes, but Fuck Death hollows out what was already an empty sound. The absence conducts the message: “Like a thief in the day / I shall dream of the void,” Mercer and Boddy harmonize like embedded, shell-shocked journalists during “Deserter’s Song.” And when he rouses himself on “Hornet’s Fury Into The Bandit’s Mouth” to issue the fist-clenched rebuke, “You should be ashamed, Philistine / doing what you will,” there’s no doubt who he’s pointing the finger at.