I remember the first time I ever heard Merchandise.
May 2011. I was lying on the floor of my 6 story walk up in Berlin, Germany with my best friend, listening to the records we had just bought from the purely punk vinyl shop down the street. She pulled out (Strange Songs) in the Dark that featured a photo of a boy, who looked like a friend of mine. She couldn’t believe I had never heard of this band Merchandise. The first song she played was called “I Locked the Door,” and I couldn’t remember the last time I had so quickly fallen in love.
I could never nail down the genre, probably because they like to reinvent. A most important constant is that lead man Carson Cox has the voice of an 80’s superstar. Their early albums mix his booming vocals with static guitar and strange melodies. Everything was incredibly raw – except him.
I would spend the next few years showing this band to my friends, my co-workers, my peers, but quickly learned it was a slim to nothing chance they would drink the Merchandise Kool-Aid quite like I did.
So you can imagine my surprise when I saw them as this weeks “First Listen” from NPR. This is not to discredit the wonderful folks at NPR music. It’s just, the Merchandise I knew was difficult to comprehend and difficult to google. Only after giving the entire forthcoming album After The End a listen, did it all made sense. They’ve made a pop record, and it is damn good. Time has transformed these Tampa, FL boys, but strangely enough, my burning love has never wavered.
Here’s a taste:
Batten down the hatches – this band is about to blow up.
Summer often comes with lots of family time. Heck, I just spent 2 whole weeks, day and night, with my family, cousin and grandmas. With all the barbecues, weddings and vacation days to take, you’ve probably spent more time with your family than you have all year. I adore family time. But, imagine hitting the road and touring the country by van with them for months on end. Sometimes my siblings and I can barely last a short car ride without wanting to smack someone. So let’s celebrate family times and the fact that you (hopefully) will not be stuck in a small smelly tour bus with your brothers and sisters anytime soon with a playlist of family bands!
1. The Hackney brothers were punk before there even were punks. Their band is called Death, and if you haven’t heard of them yet, brace yourself. Check out Politicians In My Eyes, recorded in 1975. -caitiebee
2. Art and Cyril Neville, later of The Neville Brothers, played for 7 years together in The Meters, some of the funkiest cats around. The Neville Brothers actually wound up covering this song, The Meters – Fire On The Bayou -caitiebee
3. Truthfully, any cut from the catalog of the sultan of Zydeco swing Boozoo Chavis holds the power to transform any downbeat family gathering into a rousing function of debauchery and merrymaking. Just ask Chavis’s son Charles, who used to play washboard and perform backing vocals for his Dad’s backing band “The Magic Sounds.” Both are no longer with us unfortunately, so let us raise our glasses to “Jealous Man Two Step” by Boozoo Chavis –rye
4. Sisters Barbara Ann and Rosa Lee Hawkins and their cousin Joan Marie Johnson make up The Dixie Cups, here’s Iko Iko -caitiebee
5. My favorite brothers of music, Dave and Phil Alvin, just released their first recording together in 30 years. It’s a collection of Big Bill Broonzy covers. “We argue sometimes, but we never argue about Big Bill Broonzy,” says Dave Alvin. My favorite track off the album – How You Want It Done -caitiebee
6. It’s taken me longer than I’d like to delve into this compilation of recordings from the all-female, Lee Hazlewood-backed 60s group Honey LTD. I can now say my delay was foolish, as I’ve completely fallen in lurve with this band of which two of its members are sisters. “I’ve Got Your Man” is a highlight in the way it balances a certain sweetness with a relentless vaunting of stealing one’s man away –rye
7. Bad Brains – Pay To Cum. This song, as they say, knocked my dick in the dirt upon first listen during an innocent time in my life when the concept of cum was still foreign to me. Anyhow, the line “I make decisions with precision/Lost inside this manned collision” seems to encapsulate the controlled anger that this group so expertly exudes. Brothers HR and Earl are the cornerstones of this unstoppable force of a group. –rye
8. One of my favorite electronic groups “The Knife” is composed of Swedish siblings Karin and Olof. In the song “We Share Our Mother’s Health“, their verses overlap and fight for dominance over each other as the song progresses. Sort of like how you and your siblings would yell at each other over whether Dunkaroo’s or Koala Yummies would accompany your road trip (which I’m realizing now, was really a fight over snacks that featured native Australian animals). –rye
9. We’ll end this list with arguably (at least by Gongbanter standards) the best family band around, consisting of not one but two sets of brothers, Devo. A third Mothersbaugh brother even played percussion for a few years. RIP Bob 2 and Alan. I’m sure they are in a better place, showing those evil spuds what’s what. Here’s a favorite of mine – Gates Of Steel -caitiebee