[sic] Magazine

Merchandise – A Corpse Wired For Sound

Some avoid the pigeonhole, others downright revel in them. Carson Cox and his former hardcore compadres went full indie gloom on their top-drawer debut, Totale Night, recalling equally The Smiths and the likes of Echo and The Bunnymen in the process. Making the conscious effort to then recast themselves “as a pop band” on its follow-up, the results were closer to a unique straddling of heartland New Wave whilst simultaneously listening to best of The Cure. Pleasant, sure, but overly passive too, Merchandise are mercifully now “reborn as a rock band”, except one that has “straight-up died again”, having collapsed under its own pressures. All the same, while A Corpse Wired For Sound’s title may also be inspired by a macabre short story by JG Ballard, it isn’t quite the undead rocker it first appears.

Merchandise are back down to a trio since the excesses of 2014’s After The End and these nine murky tracks are instantly more interesting as a consequence. Yet, for an album about death and the realisation that you “can’t take your friends or lovers with you” and “about finding peace with that loneliness”, it remains a collections of moments rather than takeaway anthems. Lead single, “Flower Of Sex” is definitely one of those moments in any case, its wispy beginnings undercut with Gothic bombast, leaden drums sliced clean through by Dave Vassalotti’s impeccable guitar jangles. It’s reminiscent of so many bands as it goes: The Chameleons; Bauhaus; The House Of Love; etc., that you initially fear for its identity, but this Frankenstein has balls all of its own too.

Like some acquired taste, “Right Back To The Start” is curious yet moreish, its undulating synth programme and nauseous melody delivering shadowy New Wave not unlike that of Future Islands. Cox’s wonderfully miserable vocal still flows so thickly you can hang a cloak on it as well, and on the oozing “Silence” it slops out of the speakers in truly black fashion alongside dark electronic compressions. Out come the oscillators for the krautish closer too, a scrabble of night harpies sent screeching for cover during its noisy blowout.

Blurred misanthropy fills in the gaps between supercharged Smiths solos and an all-encompassing drizzle of reverb throughout. Just as on Totale Night, though, it’s what lurks just beyond the surface that you need to pay most attention to. Intricate guitar parts dance at mid-distance before suddenly lurching for the throat. An indistinct haze hangs over most of A Corpse Wired For Sound like a noxious cloud, bending Pat Brady’s bass into Beelzebub’s own – second single “End Of The Week”, in particular, rendered so sulphurous as to recollect a band such as The Mission. It and the album as a whole are moments, nevertheless, where neither evil triumphs over good nor vice versa, rather simply, for once, of grey being preferable to black.

Best track: “Flower Of Sex”

~A Corpse Wired For Sound is released September 23rd 2016 via 4AD.~