Release Date: Sep 23, 2016
Record label: 4AD
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
A Corpse Wired For Sound is the first album that Merchandise have recorded in an actual studio, with an actual producer, and this probably accounts for the newfound muscularity in their songs. Their hefty presence makes itself clear from the very outset, ‘Flower Of Sex’ launching into life on stone blocks of booming bass drum and washy and broad guitar chords. It’s a song that chugs like a monster truck, and the ill-fated lovers that Cox is singing about seem to be tumbling further and further from happiness as the band’s sweeping melodies brush them along.
On new record A Corpse Wired For Sound the Florida post punks revert to a trio collaborating over long distance, following their brief expansion. From the album’s opener, lead single Flower of Sex, it’s clear that Merchandise’s 1980s influences have returned with a vengeance. Carson Cox’s soulful baritone calls over anthemic, effects-laden guitar lines and cavernous kick drums.
The nineties may still be the revival decade du jour, but Merchandise buck the trend. On ‘A Corpse Wired For Sound’, their time machine’s set a full decade back from the rest of the pack, the group’s second 4AD full-length more eighties-indebted than a Donnie Darko disco. All new wave tropes are present and correct – swooping reverb, drawled vocals; there’s even a rolling, digitised drum fill on opener ‘Flower Of Sex’ that sounds lifted straight from a stadium.
Shapeshifting Floridian trio Merchandise continue to evade easy description, eschewing the glossy production of their previous effort as they continue to develop in a variety of directions. Where 2014's After the End immersed itself in late-'80s college rock glory, their follow-up, the slinky A Corpse Wired for Sound, has less obvious intentions. Named after a phrase from a J.G.
By now, Tampa trio Merchandise’s noisy beginnings, rooted in the band members’ stints in hardcore punk groups, are hard to detect given their current music. In recent years, frontman Carson Cox and co. have mostly borrowed from ‘80s post-punk, noise rock, and shoegaze, consistently bringing to mind bands like The Smiths, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and My Bloody Valentine.
Tampa, Florida rock band Merchandise's new album A Corpse Wired for Sound is relentlessly minor-key and contains more than enough moaning about personal failures and relationships ending. However, it's also dynamic and poetic, with better songwriting and production values than the band has yet achieved. .
If you were up and around a TV set in Tampa on Tuesday, sometime after 10 a.m., you might have tripped into a surreal scene. On WFTS, Merchandise made an appearance on the local channel’s morning show, “Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend.” The disposition the show is supposed to render is sunny, cheerful, the perfect complement to a complete breakfast. The band was there to play a song from their new album A Corpse Wired for Sound, but not before an interview.
Merchandise are a frustrating bunch. Regardless of my expectation, every time they release a new record, my initial reaction is one of disappointment. That’s why this review comes with a disclaimer: there’s a strong chance I’ll feel totally different about this album in a few months’ time, up to a three-point addition to the number at the bottom of the page.
Alt-rock quiz: is Flower of Sex the title of Merchandise’s latest album opener, or a Puddle of Mudd parody act? It is, in fact, the former, though A Corpse Wired for Sound does hark back to the stodgy early-noughties US rock scene. It starts strong: the aforementioned song is has the melancholic chaos of the Smiths’ at their stormiest, but what follows is less direct and full of dirge. The reformed punks recently compared their sound to a “distended corpse … forever singing in spite of everything”, and a gnarly, lurching theme prevails, in contrast to the mellifluous delicacy of 2014’s After the End.
Three-piece outfit Merchandise emerged late last decade from Tampa Bay’s DIY hardcore punk scene, but serve as an outlet for Carson Cox, Dave Vassalotti and Patrick Brady to pursue their peculiar take on pop music – even more so since signing to 4AD and exchanging lo-fi production values for added gloss and pep. ‘A Corpse Wired For Sound’ represents a back-to-basics move, but also a bold pushing against frontiers. Their previous album, 2014’s 4AD debut ‘After The End’, was a serving of smooth, gauzy college rock, recorded as a five-piece.
Merchandise had never set foot in a studio until they started recording A Corpse Wired for Sound, their second album for 4AD – even the polished futuristic-pop of their debut for the label, After the End, was recorded in the bedroom of lead signer Carson Cox. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the band are distancing themselves from their strong DIY roots, though – it’s just another experiment in Merchandise’s constant metamorphosis. The band are back to their original trio for A Corpse Wired for Sound, having previously expanded to a five-piece for the recording of 2014’s After the End.