Claudia Gonson is the not-so-secret weapon of Stephin Merritt's songwriting empire. She's Merritt's manager, as well as the pianist and occasional vocalist in the Magnetic Fields; in the latter role she's responsible for some of the most moving moments on the band's epic 1999 set 69 Love Songs. So it's about time she got to sing an entire disc herself. On the new Eternal Youth (Merge), the Future Bible Heroes' second album, Gonson and Merritt's trio with programmer Christopher Ewen, her sweet deadpan voice floats atop Ewen's cheesy drum-machine beats and twinkling synths in a fond simulacrum of 80s synth pop at its most deliciously artificial: "Doris Daytheearthstoodstill" recalls Book of Love's "I Touch Roses." Merritt, the lyricist in this outfit, is preoccupied with death and the afterlife: "Smash the Beauty Machine" sets a sci-fi scenario (about destroying a mechanism that keeps everyone forever young) to pert space-age bachelor pad music, and "Find an Open Window" eggs on a potential suicide ("Find the nearest ocean / Take a little boat / Throw the paddle over / And float, baby, float"). The disc's highlight, though, is "I'm a Vampire," where Gonson pulls off a little tongue-in-cheek rap: "The sun will never touch me / I abhor its filthy light / I am the mistress of the damned / And of the children of the night / I have all the love I need / It is your blood I crave / I am a bitch goddess / From beyond your grave." Wednesday, November 6, 7 and 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Gail O'Hara.