The Mercy Seat

The Mercy Seat

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AllMusic Review by

On the face of it, this is a punk band fronted by Violent Femmes' Gordon Gano doing covers of traditional gospel songs -- and it would be easy to write this album off as being such. The initial surprise of hearing "Let Me Ride" with a fast punk two-beat behind it can be jarring, not to mention the seemingly incompatible couplings of Von Hepinstall's husky alto voice and Gano's whiny, nasally voice in a call-and-response gospel rave-up. But given a listen for the group as it is and not a Gordon Gano side project -- and hearing these songs as songs in their own right and not gospel covers -- this is an excellent record. Truly, the whole band is amazing and shines with virtuosity. Bassist Patrice Moran features very prominently here, and her lines really help to preserve the gospel tone of the record. Gano and drummer Fernando Menendez push the music much more into the Dead Kennedys or Butthole Surfers end of the spectrum. Singer/bombshell Zena Von Heppinstall is the major creative force here, penning four of the songs and carrying the music with her fabulous voice. Highlights are "Don't Forget About Me," the bluesy "He Said," and the "Let the Church Roll On/I Won't Be Back" medley. The final cut on the record is a surprising Spanish-sounding number called "Mother Talking," which sounds more like a Violent Femmes (3 era) tune than anything else here.

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