Carey’s Cold Spring
Review by Kent Manthie
Carey Mercer is the driving force behind Frog Eyes. The new album, Carey’s Cold Spring, was made over the course of three years. In that time Carey fought a fierce battle with throat cancer, he lost his dad, who passed away during that time and besides those major items, a lot of ideas were running through his mind: riots, protests, fear and loathing of the right-wing forces in America that are working as hard as possible to rollback any progress that’s been made, at least socially, in the past century. Many of the so-called “Tea Party” types, who are seriously deluded about how things really work in the real world. Led by manipulative demagogues, this relatively new “movement” looks more and more like a cult, funded by far-right extremist billionaires, like those twin devils, the Koch brothers, et cetera. Also some paranoid, dystopian ideas that could, plausibly, come to fruition if the criminals in the right-wing aren’t stopped.
Carey’s Cold Spring is a gripping album. Mercer has a voice not unlike Nick Cave – a deep baritone that resonates a depth that accentuates the songs. The guitar is sweeping, melodramatic and beautiful.
Songs like “The Road is Long”, “Your Holiday Treat” and “Don’t Give Up Your Dreams” are examples of a simplicity in its form, yet full of complexities in the depth of the lyrics, which are personal, introspective, reflective and full of longing. The last song on Carey’s Cold Spring, “Claxxon’s Lament” is probably the most personal of them all. Carey first wrote it in the early part of the 2000s, letting it linger on the back burner of his consciousness. It’s a song that is about deep loss, regret, longing for more and a sort of therapeutic catharsis. The story goes something like this: “Claxxon’s Lament” was sitting on the shelf, so to speak, for some time, then when his dad started fading from life and had entered hospice care. The way Carey put it, in his father’s last days, Carey was alone in the room with his dad, trying to be there with him as much as he could and, his dad, having, himself, being quite the guitarist himself, Carey wanted to play something for his dying father, something meaningful that would linger. There just happened to be a classical guitar in the room that day, so he grabbed it and then thought “Shit, what am I going to play? None of my songs really translate to the acoustic, or at least, none that I can think of.” Then he remembered “Claxxon’s Lament”, which, as Carey put it, “…I think a good enough song to play while your dad passes out of your life”. So he sat there, at his father’s bedside and played “Claxxon’s Lament”. After the new meaning that the song took on for him after this performance of a song that had been lingering for a decade or so, he slipped it onto this album at the last moment, because he realized it really deserved to be included. The fact that it is the last track on the album may be because it was recorded for the album at the last moment or it could be that it was, continuity-wise, a great tune with which to end the album – and that is true.
“Claxxon’s Lament” is a mournful, melancholy song which also has some spark about it. It isn’t a dirge but a song, not only of loss and sadness, but of hope for what may come in the future.
Then, as was mentioned, just as the album was about to get its final mixes, Mercer was informed by his doctor that he had throat cancer. He’s lucky that the tumor was found as quickly and as early as it was, it was still just contained to his throat, hadn’t spread, etc., so he was able to get rid of the cancer and is over it and doing just fine.
All this and more going on in one’s life in such a short amount of time (within just a couple years at most) would be a heavy burden for anyone to bear. Even without the cancer scare, which was detected after the album had already been recorded, it only needed its final mixes, etc., there was a lot he had to go through.
It is a paean to Mercer’s fortitude and character that he was able to put his all into Carey’s Cold Spring. Give it a listen! -KM.