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Merchandise – Strange Songs (In The Dark)

In Album Reviews, New England on February 15, 2011 at 11:18 am

Merchandise is a relatively unknown post-punk band out of Tampa. They rule.

Their debut LP, Strange Songs (In The Dark) has been on repeat for me for like 2 weeks now. Strange Songs is probably one of the best tries at being both catchy and noisy at the same time that I have ever heard. To make it even better, they’re on super chill label Katorga, who is distributing the digital version for free.

“This record is actually the reason Colman and I decided to start the label and we couldn’t be happier with it! Seriously, this is probably the best thing we’ll ever be apart of” Yeah, Katorga, who also have Neon Blud, a favorite of the Montreal garage/punk scene (last seen at Death House Nov 17), actually formed around this record. I just hope next time Neon Blud comes they get Merchandise up here with them.

What is so good about this album? It is dirty sounding and sludgy at times. You can’t understand a bunch of the vocals. There is a pretty much constant white noise from cymbals, and when there isn’t there is guitar feedback. Somehow though, the songs are just so catchy. I have found myself humming these songs to myself over and over since I first heard this. The melodies are just beautiful and the fact that they are obscured by the noise sometimes just makes them more powerful. The right description might be that the melodies peek out of the noise, or maybe its more of a seeping out kind of a thing. Either way, it is a good thing for sure.

When you listen to Strange Songs the first time, the most striking thing is how good the vocals are. Now, as far as I can tell Merchandise has no website of any form and I can’t for the life of me find any more info on them than a few blog posts, so I honestly have no idea who the singer is, but I am still a huge fan of his. The singing isn’t the only impressive musicianship on this album though. The tone the guitarist is able to conjure up is also great, especially on the lead line he plays in the second half of “Foolish” and the backing line he plays in the intro to “What Was Left Behind”.

Lyrically, Strange Songs isn’t all that unique. Pretty standard ideas about isolation and loneliness seem to be a theme for the whole album. That doesn’t mean its bad though. To be completely fair, a good part of the words are covered up by that awesome noise, so there could be some hidden gems that I’ve just missed. Either way, the melodies in the vocals are so good that you’re going to find yourself singing anyway.

Compared to their other work (see Gone are the Silk Gardens of Youth CS), it is probably a little less suited for seeing live and a bit less fun, but the attention to detail both in the song writing and the recording on this album are truly impressive. Personally, Foolish is a favorite track from the album just for the awesome guitar sound, but the two singles, “I Locked the Door” and “Worthless Apology” are also both great songs.

-AMK

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