Casper Skulls’ Mercy Works connects big ideas to hooky post-punk


Once the looming, ominous drone of the title track fades away, Casper Skulls send Mercy Works into a dark place. Over the woozy guitar of You Can Call Me Allocator, co-lead singer and songwriter Neil Bednis (who shares those duties with Melanie St. Pierre) drawls “In a half century, I’m in the obituaries.” It’s a reflection on both Bednis’s own mortality and legacy and those of Elvis and Paul Simon, particularly how those things have been and can be skewed and warped over time. 

The record overflows with these types of big ideas connected to deeply personal realizations translated through moody, visceral and hooky post-punk.

Lingua Franca – a language adopted between two speakers who don’t share the same native language – explores communication dynamics in relationships over blissful, 90s-indebted guitar pop. What’s That Good For draws from William Blake’s The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell to argue for the necessity of contrary ideas, all set to dreamy choruses and muscled-up blasts of overdrive. Primeval slips Abraham Lincoln into its brooding post-punk and transcendent crescendos. 

Standout track Colour Of The Outside looks at the present through a dystopian lens over mesmerizing melodies and Paul Erlichman’s masterful string arrangements, the latter of which lend remarkable gravitas to the album.

So much intellectualism sometimes leads to strange phrasings in wordy passages, yet Bednis’s and St. Pierre’s flow feels natural enough to pull off the ambitiousness, even when they’re confronting a concept as heavy as their relationship with religion (I Stared At “Moses And The Burning Bush”). 

As St. Pierre wails “I will come alive” in Faded Sound’s ecstatic final moments, the self-reflection pays off – you realize it’s all built toward one of Toronto’s best debut albums of the year. 

Top track: Colour Of The Outside

Casper Skulls play the Great Hall on November 25 and A Very Special Krampus Party at the Rec Room on December 9. See listings. | @MattGeeWilliams



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