Merchandise - After The End (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


After The End (2014)


New Wave and the synthier post punk of the mid—'80s usually gets denigrated in the usual punk retrospectives as being a sell out and commercialization of punk's ethos and virtues. However, in defence of Tears for Fears and New Order, it sounds really pretty, so shut up. Merchandise probably wouldn't mount such a silly argument for their sound on After The End, a gorgeous, shimmering mash—up of post punk and early alt—rock, but it stands. A lot of critics have expressed surprise at the pure sound of the record and the 4AD release, but the Tampa, FL band was always heading toward After The End with the crooning, warm vocals of and genuinely hooky art—rock (the Smiths comparisons are well—earned), so punks might as well enjoy the ride.

And holy shit does it sound amazing. Recorded at their house(!) but mixed to perfection, the keyboards, guitars and vocals are perfectly merged together. "Green Lady" is my favourite song on the album, a beautiful, seductive wash of synths and guitars crying out in unison then subsiding for singer Carson Cox's cryptic lyrics: "I'm through with begging for approval/Now I'm asking to be free..." And it's exemplary of much of the record: when it needs to be massive, it's huge, and when it's swaggering and upbeat, as with the single "Enemy" (dig the Johnny Marr acoustics on that sucker), it is in spades. This is the work of a confident band at ease with their path and with the music they're making.

My one jab is that a few of the slower songs tend to drag a little, a flaw held over from Children of Desire. "After The End" is gorgeous with shades of The Church and Echo and The Bunnymen, but it doesn't have the punch of "Little Killer," though the guitar work by David Vassalotti is stellar. You kind of quietly wait for it to end. Luckily the closer, "Ego & Exile," doesn't have that issue and is a haunted acoustic ballad, with Cox begging for both answers and direction: "Help me do what's right, baby/'Cause I'm lost without you." Luckily, however, Merchandise doesn't sound lost at all —— just the opposite. This is a determined, coherent album recorded by musicians with a vision and an understanding of the music stuck in their heads, and we get to hear it. And it does sound really pretty.