Thursday, May 29, 2014
Bands change. They evolve. They take in new influences, sharpen their skills, have band members come and go, or some combination of all or none of those things. It's natural. If they didn't, they would wind up making the same album over and over again, and no one wants that, no matter what they say or think. And so it has come that Merchandise have reached that point as well. We can only be thankful that they pulled off their shift so excellently.
For it could be argued that Merchandise have already gone the experimental route, having touched on noise, distortion, and sprawl through their earlier works, such as the still incredible "Become What You Are" or the darkened intensity of "Anxiety's Door". So the only direction they are left with is actually compacting their sound, making it lean and tight, and going from there. That's how you end up with "Little Killer", possibly the closest Merchandise have come to writing an actual pop song. No doubt thanks to Elsner Niño and Chris Horn joining the band properly on drums and guitar respectively has lead to a stability within the group, allowing the band to concentrate on the strengths its been nurturing since the beginning; in this case David Vassalotti's charming but intelligent guitar playing and frontman Carson Cox's passionate & sultry croon. There is a clear '80s romanticism within the track, emphasized by the video it's contained in; a clear, almost cheesy throwback to that time and style. But much the same way that video is clearly a distortion as much as it is an homage to that era, so to is "Little Killer" itself. It's catchiness can't hide the ambivalence and wistfulness that is actually at its core. This may be Merchandise going pop, but they're bringing their bleakness and longing with them.
Pre-order After the End here, from 4AD