In the lovelorn, war-torn world of Stephin Merritt, all is not well. In fact, judging by his impressive collection of heartbroken battle scars, it couldn’t get much worse. Drafted lovers come back in body bags; nights are sleepless and soberless and romance ain’t even worth the fight.
So it’s lucky that, for a crank like Merritt, it doesn’t get any better than a life of tears and drear: “I’m sad and I don’t care and I’m dancing on air!” he morosely rejoices on the Future Bible Heroes’ latest EP of love-gone-wrong songs. “If that’s how it feels to get your heart broken, break my heart again.” Better yet, break it into a thousand little pieces and gouge out his starry eyes with the shards. If it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all, then Merritt doesn’t ever want to set his sights on another would-be boyfriend.
Best known for the bubblegum gloom of the Magnetic Fields, the 6ths and the Gothic Archies, Merritt has long been the pouting prince of the indie pop pageant. In FBH he’s enlisted — along with the MF’s drummer Claudia Gonson — Chris Ewen’s ’80s synth-pop electro-disco. There isn’t a missed beat in the batch, and the trio comes this close to convincing club kids that misery is the best ecstasy (and it’s cheaper, too).
Which is why Merritt ultimately blows his cover: Nobody else sounds this happy singing about sadness. He’d never admit it, but he knows as well as anyone that misery loves company. Yep, even a nasty and bitter eccentric like Merritt feels deep down that love is worth fighting for — and he’s got the battle wounds to prove it.
Jimmy Draper writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].