Review: Have Mercy! David Barbe’s Mercyland Returns

Mercyland/We Never Lost a Single Game/Propeller
Three out of Five Stars

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David Barbe made his first attempt at gaining fame with the band Mercyland, a post-punk trio that originated in Athens Georgia circa 1985. The band—Barbe on bass and vocals, guitarist Andrew Donaldson and drummer Joel Suttles—took a collective cue from the likes of The Minutemen, Hüsker Dü, Dinosaur Jr, and The Replacements, but their rambunctious attitude and full throttle delivery were clearly all their own.

Barbe later went on to greater glories after being asked by Bob Mould to join his band Sugar, and he later added a number of high-profile production credits to his resume as well. Nevertheless, Mercyland remains an otherwise obscure curio from his formative career, one that suggests he had all the agitation and edginess needed to propel him further into the future. Consequently, We Never Lost a Single Game, a heretofore collection of rare seven-inch singles, obscure compilation tracks, and songs intended for an unreleased second album and the follow-up to their debut and sole album offering, 1989’s No Feet on the Cowling, makes for an interesting discovery, especially considering what might have been, had fate not quickly intervened.

Taken in its entirety, No Feet on the Cowling can’t be considered remarkable in any true sense of the word, but the band’s obvious enthusiasm is notable, given that they were mostly relying on a lingering live reputation. Songs such as “Minus and Parts,” “Eula Geary Is Dead,” “Tough Ass Knives, “Who Hangs Behind Your Eyes,” and, tellingly, “Waiting for the Garbage Can,” are infused with angst and intensity, leaving little room for subtlety or finesse. Hints of those elements come later, in the robust rocker “Service Economy,” the persistent Pogues-like sound of “Freight Train” and the echoey  riff and refrain of “John D. White.”

Mostly though, the album’s all jagged rhythms and inspired insurgence, a tangled tapestry that suggests a respectable reputation was never intended to fall within their wheelhouse. Consequently, it’s best left for fans, many of whom may consider it an essential acquisition.

Courtesy Big Hassle

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