Bombastic, ambitious, inscrutable--just three of the many words that can, and have, been used to describe Destroyer and Frog Eyes, both of which performed for a sizable assembly of the curious last Sunday at Club Congress.
Following a set by locals The Ballad of Johnny Glenn (which we regrettably missed), the foursome that comprises Frog Eyes--singer/guitarist/keyboardist Carey Mercer, drummer Melanie Campbell, bassist Mike Rak and keyboardist Grayson Walker--took to the stage with little fanfare. Until they began playing, anyway.
Noted as much for their literary, state-of-civilization lyrics as their angular, post-punk take on Bowie-esque dramatics, the words were sadly tough to make out. So we were left with Mercer's voice--which ranged from wordy and emotive to a whisper to a pinched falsetto--as merely another instrument amid the chaos.
And chaos it was. Each song opened and ended with Mercer either frenetically strumming muted chords or singing, often a cappella, or some combination thereof. Contained in between was a combination of busy, clanging percussion, more guitar chord changes than Joan Rivers facelifts, and rhythmic bass, with the keys supplying the closest thing to traditional melody; every song was played in an odd time signature. But amidst the hailstorm of noise, there were actual hooks to be found, if you listened hard enough. In addition to the Bowie influence, you could pick out traces of Tom Waits and Skeleton Key.
Frog Eyes re-emerged a half-hour later to back up part-time New Pornographer Dan Bejar as Destroyer. Where Frog Eyes' set reminded of Bowie, Destroyer's set resembled Bowie-influenced musicals, especially Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Most of Destroyer's songs were extremely complex, featuring multiple, differing parts--suites, if you will--and varied between power ballads that crescendoed beautifully and punk-influenced rockers (which one never would have guessed by listening to the band's albums). It was like watching a performance of songs from a rock opera that doesn't exist, theatrical at every turn.