For a man as sardonically genius as Stephin Merritt, to take a record called Partygoing in the literal, champagne-clinking sense of the phrase, you’d be fit to be fooled. Even from the guise of a Magnetic Fields side project called Future Bible Heroes, it’s not long before “the most depressed man in rock” assures you, on the collective’s first record in six years, that the bubbly’s only there because “water’s mostly piss” (“Drink Nothing But Champagne“): [LISTEN]
Just a speck of DNA from the Turin Shroud
Was used to clone our savior
And our savor said aloud
Listen up, my children, I’ve com back to tell you this:
Don’t drink the water, ’cause water’s mostly piss!
Wrought with biting, new-gen parenting techniques (“Keep Your Children in a Coma“), joint suicide (“Let’s Go to Sleep (And Never Come Back)“) and the justifications of a relationship with the devil (“Satan, Your Way is a Hard One“), among a bevy of death valley dry witticisms, Partygoing is among the most ultimate of wallflower albums, complete with a blip-bloopery sonic tapestry that is scientifically engineered to subversively clear a room. At least the kind of room that wallflowers would want to bounce out of.
Therein lies the point: Longtime friend and beat collaborator, Christopher Ewen, has strewn together some bubbly tracks for Merritt and fellow Magnetic Fieldian Claudia Gonson to retreat into the corner of the room and twiddle their thumbs to, part Postal Service bounce, part krautrock tease, where they can get lost and tie one on (“A Drink is Just the Thing“) and wallow in their failed relationships without shame or guilt (“Sadder Than the Moon“), Merritt asiding to Gonson, “I’ve always hated parties:” [LISTEN]
We’ve both got wounds that never heal
That we’re alive now is surreal
I guess I saw your shattered heart
As one more puzzle, and I’m Smart
The one point where the whole effort doesn’t feel like the most hilarious despondent patient and shrink meeting ever finds Merritt accessing a doo-wop harmony to have a breakthrough of sorts (“All I Care About is You“) – a sparkling, very earned sentiment that finally unclenches its teeth in order to let loose: [LISTEN]
And I don’t care about stuff
I don’t know I just don’t care
‘Cuase if it’s not weird, it’s not romance
And i don’t care if it’s all in my head
And I don’t care if it’s complicated
Suddenly I don’t wish I were dead anymore
Of course it’s later followed by a song called “Love Is a Luxury I Can No Longer Afford,” and a destructive message from the faux-voice of David Bowie in the aforementioned “Drink Nothing But Champagn.” But someone once said there are perks to being a wallflower. And a beautifully black sense of humor is definitely one of them.