What constitutes a proper supergroup these days? In eras past, such a band’s individual members would need to have moved beaucoup units in order to be considered “super.” Asia was a supergroup. Swan Lake is a band featuring some Canadians.
Though they’re not blowing any rails off platinum records, Swan Lake – an indie clan featuring Dan Bejar of Destroyer, Spencer Krug of Wolf Parade and Carey Mercer of Frog Eyes – are really good. Probably better than Asia, even. Definitely better than Damn Yankees. (Though, when it comes to album art, Swan Lake are right there with reviled supergroup Audioslave. Enemy Mine boasts a felt pen courtroom drawing that frankly hurts to look at.)
The trio are keen art-rock songsmiths who exploit each other’s strengths while managing to retain something resembling a group identity – like the Traveling Wilburys if Jeff Lynne were into Bowie and Genesis instead of the Beatles. And even more impressively, they make it sound easy, with their peculiar voices and music that twitches, squirms and distends in all manner of agreeable ways. Opener “Spanish Gold, 2044” is perfect up-its-own-butt post-millennial art-rock, with Mercer’s tumescent bleating and Krug’s prog-dork keyboards. For the win, as the kids say. “Spider” is pretty groovy, too, sounding as it does like Robyn Hitchcock having velvety relations with Tim Curry under a full moon on the moors. Bejar’s bandmates indulge his gingerbread crooning, providing twinkly keyboards and boxy percussion. Fantômas would definitely give these guys swirlies.
Album closer “Warlock Psychologist” is a glorious mess of distorted keyboard and poetic non sequiturs that less dedicated bands would probably have left off the record. But not Swan Lake, whose perverse commitment to farty art-rock is to be respected, perhaps even embraced. If only Temple of the Dog had been so dedicated, we might not have suffered Chris Cornell’s solo albums.