Review : Merchandise - Children of Desire
PitchforkIt's not surprising that digging up concrete information on Tampa, Fla.'s Merchandise is a little harder than it should be. As a product of the city's thriving DIY punk and hardcore scene, the three-piece (anchored by multi-instrumentalists David Vassalotti and Carson Cox, who also contributes vocals, along with Patrick Brady on bass) is used to flying under the radar, contributing to other Tampa-based outfits like Neon Blud, Cult Ritual, and the Dry County, respectively. But with Children of Desire, Merchandise's second proper LP to date, lying low no longer seems like much of an option: Though most assuredly not a punk record, Children of Desire is anything but understated; instead, it's an outsized, emotionally rich pop album that practically begs for your attention. "I still participate in punk and hardcore but for traditional reasons," Cox told music blog Yellow Green Red in October. "My roots are strong and have kept me playing whenever I really hated playing shows because of pointless social gossip or whatever. I'm taking the chance that there are people like me outside of punk by playing whatever I like. Genres are not for us."
Merchandise's conflicted feelings about genre are understandable: One of the most interesting things about Children of Desire is, despite being crafted from familiar parts, how damn hard it is to peg. A cursory blog search will tell you that Merchandise play an amalgamation of post-punk or shoegaze or noise pop or pretty much any confluence of notable indie offshoots that gained momentum during the 1980s, and while you certainly wouldn't be faulted for making similar connections, something about such broad distinctions doesn't do the band justice. Trying to figure out where Children of Desire fits is not only a fruitless endeavor, it marginalizes the ambition that acts as the record's most visible engine.
On their 2010 debut, (Strange Songs) In the Dark, things were a bit easier to sort. Working as a miserablist pop album shrouded in corroded production, it's a record that tries to filter the fog of strife and regret that pepper so many songs about love and youth. But for the players that make up Merchandise, these ideas were rendered in ways that were uncommonly restrained. "Learn how to sleep without any company," Cox dourly croons on "What Was Left Behind", "Oh, you're still a young man." Though the approach still feels-- at least from a production standpoint-- punk-influenced, there's no denying that something more romantically resonant was bubbling underneath. On Children of Desire, a great deal of that suspected brightness has broken through the surface, revealing a borderline anthemic sound that's a leap and a revelation. The hot, swirling guitar feedback that overwhelmed (Strange Songs) In the Dark is no longer front-and-center; here, it's a natural by-product of the wide-eyed magic Merchandise have begun to conjure....full text
DustedmagazineIf you find yourself flipping through a merch box at an upcoming hardcore punk show, the Merchandise records you’d find are the poppiest, most accessible slabs in there by at least the length of two bullet belts. I’m not sure how old these guys are, but they lead the DIY charge in nostalgia-rooted expression at this stage in time, reaching back to the airbrushed achievement of a late 1980s/early ’90s glam-pop nuance that aligned with, and possibly preceded, the births of the band members. They sound like guys with Flock of Seagulls haircuts, but their performance in that mode, at least as far as these songs are concerned, is so complete and so utterly real that there is scarcely any other way to take it.
Merchandise’s members did an interview last year in which they spell out their beliefs, something short of a manifesto but all the same refreshing to see. We’re starting to find the sort of bands who realize that the music industry has nothing to offer them, short of what they can do themselves and with help of their friends and supporters. The label that released the new Merchandise record, and most of the ones that precede it, gives away free downloads of all its releases, yet still regularly sells out of physical titles in their catalog. Watching these parties and others (like Milk Music) operate from a distance is exciting, because you can sense that the momentum behind them is real, not numbers on a Kickstarter campaign. If you like them, then you probably want to see them succeed, and by that logic, you have already taken a more active stake in their potential. You’re buying into the “yourself” part of DIY, because support and involvement are the only things that can really propel any music out of this encampment.
Merchandise is here to tell us that it’s their moment. Children of Desire is a strong step forward from a band that’s had no qualms with allowing its ambitions to unfold as part of the band itself. The band’s principle members, Carson Cox and David Vassalotti, are responsible for almost all of the music on the record (Cox is the vocalist, Vassalotti the guitarist, while both work on the backing tracks along with bassist Patrick Brady). Ambition pours out of the sleeve in the form of a black, stapled tract, entitled Desire in the Mouth of Dogs, by one “W. Marchendese,” a collection of journal entries written by our avatar into the world around Desire. In it, Bill M., presumably a twentysomething philosophy grad from a four-year college, overthinks life in a green cloud of pot smoke, as his life is dictated by a series of nightmares over the space of a few months. The words overlap at points with the music on the album, and the story steers the sometimes elegant, ambitious nature of these six songs from an alluring, dark synth-pop embrace into something much more abstract and terrifying. Bill’s world is coming apart at the seams; his days disintegrate in balmy heat and displaced confidence against the drugs and the general confusion of this age. He’s yet another guy who has a fatalistic drive to contextualize his education against his life experience, in search of the path created by the greater meaning in all the books he’s read. As Bill’s dreams become darker and more sexualized, he is set further adrift from the changes he can make in real life. It’s a tale of depression, and accurately captures the clammy, suffocating inertia that comes with the diagnosis....full text
PinpointmusicIt’s all glum, chum. I don’t know what you’re on about. Had you kept your dreary new/now/next-wave druthers about you through all the tired years of being kicked around as a “faggot,” “freak,” etc. perhaps you might finally be landing that sweet shaved pussy with the Psychick Cross labial tattoo you always lapped at in your nouveaux rêves primitifs.
But you didn’t, did you?
You got a job. You cut your Thirwell hair. You shoved your duct-taped Docs into a closet (or if you were sensibly vested in a relationship [as happens to us graying weirdos from time to time] you threw them away to make space for…um…is that her bong?) and pretended not to cream your jeans when you read somewhere that The Cure were playing their first three records (FAITH, DUDE! FAITH!) at Radio City Music Hall because you were finally well enough on your way to being a fully functional human being (no more secret cutting, darling…it’s time to Klonopin like a real man) that you could actually afford the scalper’s seats.
But guess what, asshole? Our time is now. The doom and the gloom and the synthetic pop cheerless that kept you alive (or half dead, depending on who knew you then) through the late 70s or 80s or early 90s or whenever you had the particular misfortune to come into your own particular brand of Proustian drag is back in a way I don’t think any of us could have imagined.
Just listen to Merchandise.
Though they’re nowhere near the forefront of this new dour movement (and I honestly don’t care to swim through all the squid ink to figure out who is so I’ll just go ahead and blame Silver Lake) their new release Children of Desire might well be the perfect fucking testament to why you started smoking cloves in the first place....full text
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