Blackout Beach transforms tales of deep reflection

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March 26, 2013

Blackout Beach
Blues Trip (2013)
Produced by Dante DeCaro and Carey Mercer

Reviewed by Johnnie Regalado

Carey Mercer is just one of many rock gods this isolated island has managed to nurture. Really, we’ve watched so many of these greats grow–consider Japandroids or Wolf Parade. We may have always known in the back of our ears that some day they’d need to move on.

But there is an exception: The “broken braying sound” of Carey Mercer and his guitar has always crashed upon the shores of Vancouver Island. Literary genius overdriven through a microphone and guitar amp, Mercer is Victoria’s sequestered minstrel. He is the hometown hero and front man of Frog Eyes, arguably Victoria’s biggest contribution to contemporary alt-rock. Instead of wandering, he barks and howls tales of epic lyricism and strings romantic era guitar hooks that send any listener on a journey. His songs strike a beat on your eardrums that echo deep in the pit of your stomach.

Blues Trip, the latest release under Mercer’s solo-project moniker Blackout Beach, marks his self-actualization as a songwriter. It’s a fleshy follow-up to an unusually sparse album recorded in near isolation. Now, on the other side of his father’s death from cancer, Mercer re-imagines the tracks originally composed for Fuck Death with the maturity of someone who sincerely understands death. Blues Trip supplants its predecessor as the true recording of this collection of morbid curiosity, leaving Fuck Death to sound like outtakes and remixes.

There is a new heartbeat on Blues Trip that starts with Melanie Campbell’s persistent support on percussion. The recording by Dante DeCaro at a studio in an old barn near the Cowichan River captures the catharsis of private journal scribbling to shared confession. Mercer’s voice is raspy with the beautiful weight of dark experience, a load lifted with the occasional help of an old friend, Dan Bejar. This is the album that finally canonizes Carey Mercer as the patron saint of Victoria rock and roll.

Johnnie Regalado is Program Director at CFUV 101.9 FM. He also contributes to and has his BFA in Writing and English from the University of Victoria.


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