“If I’m your enemy, then I’m keen to be your enemy,” Carson Cox sings to open After The End
(4AD). Cox, 28, is probably used to animosity by now.
Merchandise’s first shows were Tampa storage unit sets spent exploring riotous krautrock, and where last year’s Total Nite
surely alienated the last of fans with asses chapped by the band’s move towards ‘80s-loving art-rock, this new album completes the escape from underground notoriety and moves towards international recognition.
The LP is sequenced impeccably and references influences (A Flock Of Seagulls, Morrissey, Jesus And The Mary Chain) while simultaneously managing to be weird (“Little Killer” samples a Japanese art film) and ready for mass consumption at the same time (“Telephone”). Guitarist Dave Vassalotti crafts textures usually pulled off by players twice his age (“True Monument”), and producer Gareth Jones (Depeche Mode, Nick Cave) makes it all sound more majestic than the boys could’ve on their own (it was still recorded at Cox & co.’s Seminole Heights home).
Merchandise has one of the best local releases of the decade, and while fame has them playing huge festivals overseas, Tampa should be proud that they got their start — and keep chasing their muse — right here at home.
3.5 out of 5 Stars.