By Alec Warkentin
“Our generation is weak, but not today!” peaks Neil Bednis on “Glories,” the penultimate track from Mercy Works, a brimming and spirited debut of an album from Toronto “rompers” Casper Skulls.
Sharing vocal responsibilities with bandmate Melanie Gail St-Pierre, Bednis’ one-half is full of such exclamations, generally delivered through his devil-may-care belligerency with an A. Savage-esque sense of confidence.
Gail St-Pierre, on the other hand, is much more grounded, and it’s the dichotomy between the two that keeps Mercy Works from the common issue of descending into an alt-rock slog.
That’s not to say the instrumentation isn’t on point, combining shoegaze-adjacent sonics and percussive cacophony that fills Mercy Works with an energy under its nihilist visage.
Really, for an album that can be categorized as post-punk it’s surprisingly tame in regards to the archetypal abrasive approach of less-talented bands.
The closest they get to falling into the pattern of the current musical trend is on “Primeval,” an echoing shimmer of a track that hints at a full-noise collapse before tapering off into the ever-successful Bednis-St-Pierre bit.
For the most part, however, Mercy Works forgoes buying into the flavour-of-the-month genre-trap.
Tracks like “I Stared At ‘Moses and the Burning Bush’” and “What’s That Good For” have a sort-of lackadaisical approach to the early-wave alt-rock bent, and the aforementioned “Glories” (easily the biggest standout of the album) features just enough sing-along-prepped lyricism and quiet-loud-quiet build-ups to set you up for the hazy closer “Faded Sound.”
The only real qualm to be had with Mercy Works, while perfectly packaged in its own right, is an omnipresent one in many rock-y, guitar-y albums: slightly more experimentation to keep it demanding constant attention.
Mercy Works really works best when it reaches for high points (“You Can Call Me Allocator,” “Glories”) and less so on its middle-of-the-road cuts (“Lingua Franca,” “Chicane, OH”).
But the peaks it does climb more than makeup for some of the more vanilla tracks, and even the most repetitive and meandering points of the album have something worth enjoying.
What Casper Skulls have with Mercy Works is a deftly-crafted and undoubtedly strong debut, one that’s definitely worth a listen if only to show that the two-pronged vocal thing can work when executed properly.
It’s also a testament that nihilism doesn’t have to be all angles and irregularities. One can approach the melancholy of a meaningless world in different ways. Mercy works, and so does Casper Skulls.Buzz Records, Casper Skulls, Mercy Works, Record Review