Comprised of members of Wolf Parade and The New Pornographers and originally operating under the name ‘Thunder Cloud’, Canada’s Swan Lake underwent a name change upon discovering their first choice was already taken (although not by Steven Segal who had already bagged ‘Thunderbox‘) and released a debut album, Beast Moans in 2006. So named, because its sound reminded band member Spencer Krug of “…a bear dying in a tar pit.” Beast Moans was a mash-up of the trio’s very differing approach to song writing, layers of melodies and styles thrown into the mix to see what came out.
With new album Enemy Mine (Named after the 80's Science Fiction film starring Dennis Quaid) the band made a more concerted effort on tighter collaboration and although certainly more pleasant on the ear than an animal dying slowly, it is still in no great hurry to be taken home and cared for. Thanks largely to the spoken/sung style of other band member Daniel Bejar (Carey Mercer makes up the trio) Enemy Mine comes across as quite abrasive on first listen. It plays out like a collection of scenes from a musical. And a musical that takes itself quite seriously to boot. Which would be ok if any of the lyrics stood out and got you thinking, but on the first few listens it just sounds like a literary stream of consciousness, this from ‘Heartswam’ being my favourite so far:
“I was coming off something particularly strong, you had your gloves on, they looked fucking brutal”.
And I say so far, because I’m convinced Enemy Mine is going to get better. It’s three creators clearly didn’t make it to be picked up on the commute to work and put down with the coffee. There’s a lot more going on here than I can take in, during the few listens I’ve had - so I’m advancing it half a star in credit from its initial 2.5 score. It’s not an album I’m desperate to adopt, but neither is it one I’m ready to throw to the tarpits. Yet.
(As a side note, they originally were going to call the album ‘Before the Law’ after a Franz Kafka parable, but were tired of being constantly referred to as ‘literary’. I thought I’d help them out with this by lowering the brow a touch with name-checks to Steven Seagal and Dennis Quaid.)