Future Bible Heroes

Partygoing

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It’s been ten years since the last Future Bible Heroes album, but for those in the know, it's hardly felt like a drought, as the group is merely a re-skinned version of ultra-prolific songwriter Stephin Merritt's myriad other outlets, which include Magnetic Fields, Gothic Archies, and the 6ths. Originally conceived as a one-off collaboration between Merritt and popular DJ and ex-Figures on a Beach keyboardist Christopher Ewen, the addition of longtime Magnetic Fields collaborator Claudia Gonson in 2002 officially brought the group into Merritt's indie pop empire, and with their heady blend of kitschy electro-pop and darkly funny, Brill Building-inspired tales of heartbreak, the trio really began to cook. 2013's Partygoing finds Gonson and Merritt sharing lead vocals, with Ewen peppering the tracks with strategic blasts of Tiki-fueled ambiance. Light years more engaging than the previous year's Magnetic Fields offering, the oddly dumb and desperate Love at the Bottom of the Sea, this 15-track set covers all of the usual subjects like smack-assisted suicide ("Let's Go to Sleep and Never Come Back"), booze ("Drink Nothing But Champagne"), the cruel necessity of sin ("Satan, Your Way Is a Hard One"), and of course, love and heartbreak ("Sadder Than the Moon"), all of which benefit from some of Merritt's sharpest lyrics in years, which even at their most juvenile, as is the case with the outstanding "Keep Your Children in a Coma" ("You can't let them go to school for fear of bullying little beasts/and you can't take them to church for fear of priests"), retain the grumpy wisdom of a mellowing misanthrope. In fact, few songwriters can capture the bleak comedy of loneliness, bitterness, and the sheer helplessness that accompanies aging better than Merritt, and he does so here with great aplomb.

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