Album of the Week 08-2016: Merry – Peep Show

When I was exploring the many bands that comprise the Japanese Rock scene, Merry quickly became one of my favorites. Why? Because the country is full of bands imitating the bigger acts, while Merry has a strange, but appealing sound that is truly and uniquely their own. Shreds of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Punk, Jazz, Metal and Blues come together to forge a sound that is distinctly retro, but nonetheless highly original. Count to that the fact that their visual act is better thought out than just “look at us, we’re sexy vampires from the future!” and you’ve got a winning combination.

‘Peep Show’ was the first Merry album I listened to due to its relatively easy availability in Europe and it’s still quite likely my favorite, because it highlights the more melodic and catchy side of the band. Aside from ‘PLTC’, the heavy and aggressive side of the band is downplayed considerably here. That doesn’t mean the record isn’t energetic. On the contrary; it’s quite impossible to not be if you’ve got one of the wildest drummers of the country in Nero. Also, the tempos are generally high. It’s just that the strong retro aspect allows the record to shine in the songwriting department.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the beginning of the record; after the nice bombastic horns of the titular intro track follows what is quite likely the best succession of three songs on any Merry record. ‘Kyousou Carnival’ does a great job of introducing the album’s sound of high velocity, but not too distorted guitars courtesy of Kenichi and Yuu and swinging rhythms, after which ‘Sentimental Newpop’ – with its wonderfully teasing lead guitar theme and intense chorus – and the highly infectious ‘Sayonara Ame (Rain)’ – with its unforgettable chorus and brilliantly accented rhythm – perfect it.

Don’t get the impression the album is frontloaded though. The rest of the album is filled with Merry greatness. ‘Kousou Bilu No Ue De Last Dance’, ‘Mado Kara Nigeta Love Song’ and the two ‘Peep Show’ interludes feel like restaurant Jazz on steroids, ‘Bluescat’ feels like an old school swing single played at 45 RPM, ‘Retro Future’ and ‘Ringo To Uso’ beg to be sung along and closing track ‘Mousou Rendez-Vous’ ups the intensity to remind you to put on the record again. All of this with what is likely the best vocal performance I have ever heard out of Gara.

Merry is truly something else. I’m not just saying that to emphasize their quality, but rather to emphasize their uniqueness. There’s really no other band that sounds like Merry and therefore, it’s sort of hard to describe their sound even after hearing it. But a fact is that it’s good. What I especially appreciate is that their approach is a little wilder than the relatively measured approach that is common for Japanese bands. Really any release of theirs is worth your time, but while I commend the band for their continuous experimentation, ‘Peep Show’ is definitely the record that has all their strengths at the front.

Recommended tracks: ‘Sayonara Ame (Rain)’, ‘Sentimental Newpop’, ‘Bluescat’

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