MERCHANDISE: Totale Nite: CD/LP

Totale Nite is another shorter release from the Tampa, Florida, band Merchandise, with five songs in thirty-three minutes, and none of them come in at over ten minutes, unlike Children of Desire (the band’s last album), whose two best tracks both broke that mark. The first track on this album, “Who Are You,” starts with a harmonica, reminiscent of “Hand in Glove” by The Smiths. Remember how it seemed so wrong for what you thought you knew of the band (harmonicas only work for country music and bluegrass, right?). But like “Hand in Glove,” when you think about it, the harmonica works really well. The second song, “Anxiety’s Door,” has the band back in their 1980s Brit-pop groove, with an infectious beat and Carson Cox’s great Ian Curtis-esque vocals. “I’ll Be Gone” is a more morose piece with electric guitar droning out before the introduction of acoustic guitar and cool synths. The title track is the longest on the album at just over nine minutes. It starts with what seems like a reprise of “I’ll Be Gone” before suddenly stopping and shifting gears into a marching beat, guitar, and saxophone. Perhaps it’s the inability of the saxophone to truly complement the song, but things never seem to jive and it sounds as though the song is always about to fall apart. Closing out the album is “Winter’s Dream,” something that sounds as though it was taken from a Tears For Fears or Depeche Mode album. It’s slow and morose, but like some of the other tracks on Totale Nite, it has this one element (in this case an off-beat progression on the synths) that doesn’t jive with the rest of the production of the track. Merchandise has certainly shown themselves to be a band that doesn’t really care much about conventional styles (they’re a bunch of hardcore punks playing ‘80s-influenced Brit-pop and releasing it on tiny labels when they’ve had offers from some of the bigger indies), so perhaps they said, “Yeah, this saxophone doesn’t quite fit,” or “This synth riff doesn’t make things smooth, but who gives a shit?” However, it’s really unfortunate to hear songs not gel after Children of Desire, which was one of my favorite albums from 2012. I really hope this is just a misstep on their musical path.  –kurt (Night People)