Album of the Week 18-2015: Merry – Nonsense Market

While there may be bands I enjoy listening to slightly more, Merry is by far the most interesting Japanese band I have come across so far. They have a very strong concept focusing on the Japanese avant-garde of the first half of the twentieth century and it’s exactly that multiple genre approach that keeps them from being locked inside the fairyland court symphonic Rock or futuristic vampire modern Metal that many Visual Kei bands confine themselves to. Merry has a unique style in which retro and contemporary music blend perfectly. Due to its increased eclecticism, their most recent effort ‘Nonsense Market’ is one of their most enjoyable releases.

Since listening to the band’s 2009 effort ‘Under-World’, I had feared Merry would be pushing their Metal influences to the forefront too much. But since the band refuses to release the same album twice, I shouldn’t have worried. 2011’s ‘Beautiful Freaks’ was a great selection of songs – I love ‘Fukinkou Kinema’ with a passion – and ‘Nonsense Market’ shows the band further down the melodic path. It still gets a little heavy sometimes (‘Zero’ and the crazy ‘Carnival’ are fine examples), but there’s a great deal of variation and unconventional, at times spectacular songwriting at work here.

On recent releases, I felt some of the distinct retro feel of Merry’s earlier releases was lacking. There’s more than enough of that here. ‘Hide-And-Seek’ is an old school Rock ‘n’ Roller lead by reverberating clean guitars and Surf rhythms, giving the song an atmosphere reminiscent of The Shadows, while ‘Zombie Paradise ~Jigoku No Tango~’ feels like a modern day Disco tune due to the funky rhythms courtesy of bassist Tetsu and drummer Nero. The frantic pace and backbeat accents of ‘Chiyodasen Democracy’ have something of a ska vibe and the way the accordion battles with the guitars is unlike anything I have ever heard.

Highlighting the album is the bright Rocker ‘Fukurou’. Its euphoric atmosphere is caused by a triumphant guitar theme, a huge chorus and Nero’s simple, but brutally effective base rhythm. The song contains a lot of Merry trademarks – the complementary guitar interaction between Kenichi and Yuu, the backbeat guitar accents in the verse and Tetsu’s inventive, melodic bass lines – and is one of their best. The title track was a logical choice for a single due to its catchy character. The somber ‘Unreachable Voice’ stands out due to its acoustic approach, after which the more upbeat ‘Gunjou’ is a perfect closer.

As with all Japanese bands, Merry’s releases are hard to get a hold of, but well worth tracking down. They have the coolest drummer in Japan, which is filled with technically proficient drummers, but none of them seems to get into it as intuitively and enthusiastically as Nero does. Also, they have five great songwriters who each bring something else to the table. That makes it hard to explain the sound of the band even when you’ve heard it, especially on an album as wildly eclectic as ‘Nonsense Market’, but it’s also what makes the band so incredibly interesting. They’re really something else.

Recommended tracks: ‘Fukurou’, ‘Gunjou’, ‘Hide-And-Seek’

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