Kindred spirits: St. Etienne, Silicon Teens, the Ronettes
Show: With Luxury Liners on Friday at the Black Cat. Doors open at 9 p.m. 202-667-4490. www.blackcatdc.com. $15.
Stephin Merritt sings only every other tune on Future Bible Heroes’s “Partygoing,” but the new album is entirely in his voice: weary and witty, caustic yet amused. To oversimplify just slightly, these synth-backed ditties are about the difficult choice between suicide or another glass of champagne.
The singer-songwriter is best known for the long-running Magnetic Fields, but he maintains several more intermittent projects. This is the third album, and the first in 11 years, from the Heroes, which also feature composer-arranger Christopher Ewen and vocalist Claudia Gonson. Merritt won’t be touring with the group, but “Partygoing” could hardly exist without him.
Like the early Magnetic Fields, the Heroes depend heavily on tinny keyboard riffs and simple beatbox shuffles. The timbres suggests 1970s disco, but this isn’t dance-club music.
Only a few songs pick up the beat, and the ones that do — notably the blithe “A New Kind of Town” and “Living, Loving, Partygoing” — have a 1960s girl-group innocence.
Of course, Merritt knows what to do with innocence: Subvert it. So it turns out that the choice between death and sparkling wine isn’t much of one. In “Drink Nothing but Champagne,” the singer commends bubbly because “it makes life shorter than drinking water.”