Words About Music
Merchandise “After the End”
It’s hard to believe that Merchandise was ever associated with hardcore punk of any kind, but in their very early years that’s the kind of band they were. With every album, though, the Florida band shifts further and further into an ’80s new wave alt-pop band. Their 2012 sophomore breakthrough release “Children of Desire” and 2013 followup “Totale Nite” seemed to display shifts into post-punk and a bit of shoegazing, but any traces of those genres are gone with their fourth album (and first for renowned record label 4AD) “After the End.” Merchandise appear to emulate 4AD label-mates The National with their melancholic indie rock, but with a touch of ’80s cheeseball synths. Seriously, nearly every song on this album could’ve been a different one-hit wonder in the ’80s. It’s an astonishingly eclectic mix of throwback and progressiveness that doesn’t deviate from the band’s noisy roots.
Unlike the band’s two previous albums, there aren’t any songs on “After the End” that exceed the 9-minute mark. This is probably the band’s most straightforward and accessible album to date, and I don’t think the quality suffers too much. Fans of the band that have followed their previous releases will note the continued progression in their style, while newcomers may compare the group to artists ranging from The Strokes to Future Islands to Duran Duran to Interpol to New Order. “After the End” is an album that draws inspiration from several artists while still sounding like a Merchandise album. While plenty of fans may love the new direction, I personally enjoy the noisier post-punk of their last two albums. Merchandise has, more or less, put out an album a year since they debuted, so there’s no reason “After the End” should be marked as a total decline. We may see something better in 2015.
“After the End” is a pretty good album. Not the band’s best, but it’s good. I can’t say I love the ultra-accessible direction the band has taken themselves into this time around as it doesn’t really work on every single song on here, but the band pulls it off incredibly well on other songs. “After the End” feels like a bridge between “Totale Nite” and an upcoming, much better record. If you still consider the group post-punk, then they certainly do it in a much more interesting way than most post-punk revivalist bands do. I’m sure for as long as the band exists they will continue to reinvent their sound, never quite settling on one particular method. And that’s what I love about Merchandise. If you don’t like an album of theirs, chances are they’ll change it up on their next one.
While I long for the noisy, gothic days of Merchandise’s music (you know, like a year or two ago), I must accept that we are in a new age of Merchandise’s career. They’ve signed to a major-indie label that’s responsible for some of the best alternative rock groups of the past 30 years or so. It only makes sense that the band would branch out from their raucous past into a friendlier new sound. I listed several bands that Merchandise could probably be compared to on this album, but I think the one I am most reminded of is Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ ever-changing career. Sometimes atmospheric and dark, other times punchy and angry, the Bad Seeds rarely stick to one sound. They do what they want, and so does Merchandise. I don’t know what the band will do next, but I’m sure I’ll like it to some extent. Merchandise has what so few post-punk bands exhibit: ambition. “After the End” is an ambitious record, and even if I didn’t love it I still appreciate its existence.
SCORE – 7.4
FAVORITE TRACKS – Enemy, True Monument, Green Lady, Telephone, Little Killer, After the End, Exile and Ego