Like any good social gathering, Partygoing is all too fleeting, with most of its thirteen tracks snapping their fingers and sauntering off after just two minutes. What really gives cause to celebrate here is that this is the most enjoyable, well-rounded record yet from this oddball three-piece. It’s further evidence that Merritt is now making his most interesting work outside of what is considered to be his main band.

After producing a string of guitar-based albums in the previous decade, Stephin Merritt backtracked to an electronic sound for The Magnetic Fields’ patchy 2012 album Love at the Bottom of the Sea. The natural progression (or is that regression?) from here was to reform synth-pop side-band Future Bible Heroes, which consists of Merritt, the ever-present Claudia Gonson and composer/keyboardist Christopher Ewen.

 

Champagne in hand, Merritt runs the gamut of social observations, with anti-children manifestos (‘Keep Your Children in a Coma’), suicide bids (‘Let’s Go To Sleep and Never Come Back’), binge drinking (‘A Drink is Just the Thing’), bitter unrequited love (‘Sadder Than the Moon’) and even genuine affection (‘All I Care About is You’). Most of all there’s a droll take on the slow-motion suicide of Merritt’s fellow sun-loving Angelinos, a theme he also covered on The 6ths’ ‘Rot in the Sun’. ‘Digging My Own Grave’ is a cheery paean to self-destruction, while ‘Drink Nothing But Champagne’ helps kill off the children that aren’t already in comas with the insightful “It makes life shorter than drinking water.

 

4/5 stars

 

BY CHRIS GIRDLER

 

Partygoing is out now through Merge Records.

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