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Album review

Merchandise 

After The End

added: 25 Aug 2014 // release date: 25 Aug 2014 // label: 4AD
reviewer: Steve Warnham

Merchandise - After The End - Printable version
As their first record under the 4AD label After the End is Merchandise’s poppiest, most accessible record to date. But it comes from the Florida outfit with a distinct vision rather than the hope of cashing in.

Their style hasn’t changed entirely, it’s just more polished; Merchandise still produce a swirling blend of psychedelic riffs and romantic baritone vocals. It’s just that with improved production they are moving further from their DIY roots and as such the rawness is dropped for a crisper sound. Because of this, Carson Cox’s voice sounds increasingly sophisticated and refined.

‘Corridor`, a quaint instrumental track opens the album before the single ‘Enemy’ ups the ante. ‘Enemy’ rallies around its refrain, which is similar to The Rolling Stones’ ‘(Can’t get no) Satisfaction’. However, when played out on an acoustic guitar and cleverly fused with the band’s flair the result is captivating and you will be nodding your head without even realising.

‘Green Lady’ is as vast as it is lavish. Built upon digital drums and woodblocks the track is packed with bright synths and rolls by at a slow pace. Then almost as an aside, mid-record you’ll be surprised to hear ‘Telephone’ which is as interesting as it funky. Adopting a style and a sound we’ve not heard from Merchandise before, it has a swinging rhythm made for an old disco and acts as the height of Merchandise’s foray into pop.

As ‘Telephone’ descends into feedback After the End refocuses with the single ‘Little Killer.’ This is quite a different beast entirely, and more what we would have come to expect from the one-time hardcore band. It has a high-tempo riff and relies more on the use of driven guitars rather than synths. Bringing the record to a close is ‘Exile and Ego’ which is slow and desolately beautiful, emphasising the vivacity that all Merchandise tracks house.

After the End marks another step in the evolution of Merchandise. The once rough and ready outfit which relied on an automatic drum machine and home recording equipment is now becoming a more mainstream band with a larger sound and bigger production value. ‘Mainstream’ here is not intended to be used in the negative sense of the word (though some of their erstwhile Tampa punk scene peers would disagree); it’s refreshing to hear such a self-possessed and tenacious sound segue into the wider consciousness.

What’s more, the record is packed with huge sounds which showcase Cox’s mesmerising voice over discordant psych-pop. The easy comparisons between Cox and Morrissey which dogged Children of Desire and to a lesser extent Totale Nite have become redundant. Fans of the Smiths and Echo & the Bunnymen will still feel an affinity for the mood of the album, but this time around it feels bigger, more ambitious and more organic.

Stand out tracks:
Enemy, Little Killers, Green Lady, Exile and Ego


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5 stars

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