Mercyland: We Never Lost A Single Game [Album Review]

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We Never Lost A Single Game
Propeller Sound Recordings [2022]

Before David Barbe recorded three studio albums next to Bob Mould in his band Sugar, he was in another post-punk trio out of Athens, GA, Mercyland. Schooled in the fine art of studio engineering and record production by John Keane, Barbe and a couple others opened Chase Park Transduction studios in Athens, where among other things he’s acted as producer on all the Drive-By Truckers releases, as well as albums by Superchunk, Deerhunter, Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, and k.d. lang. In 2011, Barbe went back to Mercyland’s debut album, No Feet on the Cowling, and remixed it more to his liking and re-issued it. With major labels sniffing around, the band recorded the nine tracks here in 1990, before breaking up for good. As before, Barbe has gone back to the original recordings, stripped them back to their essentials and remixed them for this release, using his new-found production skills to allow the band’s sound to breakthrough.

“Three band man is bound by natural limitations” is the opening lyric of the first track, “Minutes and Parts,” a fun 2 and half minute burst of post-punk crosscut fury,” to “see what you left behind.” Followed by the grinding, then pounding rhythm of “Tough Ass Knives,” with its pause for a tasteful, reflective bass run, before diving back into driving feedback attack of the song proper, it’s obvious Mercyland meant business. Barbe who also sings lead, is joined by guitarist Andrew Donaldson and drummer Joel Suttles, who share backing harmonies, the three all playing fast and furious for the most part, in the vein of other bands of that period like Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr., and The Replacements.

Like those opening tracks, the album’s first single/video is an edgy steady rocker, built on a tense opening drum hook, with a change of pace bridge to mix things up, but then back to reliable tense rhythm charge to the end. Two more are interesting conceptually, “Who Hangs Behind Your Eyes” and “Waiting for the Garbage Can,” but after a while later tracks like “John D. White” and “Freight Truck” begin to pile up as more of the same. But the closing track mixes up the rhythms, making “Eula Geary Is Dead” a three-minute wake-up reminder that a smart power trio can turn a quirky rhythmic idea into strange little rock song that puts a smile on your face, and sends you back to the beginning for more.

“Uncle” / “Minutes And Parts” / “Tough Ass Knives”

Hüsker Dü / The Replacements / Sugar

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Brian Q. Newcomb

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