Merchandise’s first album, from 2000, had an eclectic sound encapsulating trashy punk, oddball electronica and 70s Miles Davis style instrumentals.
The album blends live instruments with analogue and digital technology to create tracks such as the offbeat funk of Shooting Jenny, the whimsical lo-fi pop beauty of Unmapped Streets and the punky-electro of album opener, New Resurrection.
Elsewhere, tracks such as, Books, Black Russian and Zebedee suggest influences from the likes of Stereolab, Aphex Twin and New Order.
The album gained critical acclaim from Manchester cultural bible CITYlife (review below) and also received attention from national glossy Q.
Lovers of invention and idiosyncrasy could do far worse than explore this lost gem.
From: Paint Box Fanzine
The debut CD by Bolton duo Merchandise is characterised by an eclecticism of the most intriguing sort. Moving from Fall-esque sneers to the most machine tooled of beats within the same time signature displays a welcome air of mischief to proceedings. The group try out genres piled song high with commendable bravado; songs like the clockwork R ‘n’ B of ‘Black Russian’ tap into a fairytale sleaze that British electronica rarely captures. Similarly, the jovially titled, ‘Hi Honey, I’m Home’ nestles quietly alongside the fragilities of Tindersticks. There are garish squelchy passages that glory in their whiteout energy and quaint pieces of electro-noir that beat The Wisdom of Harry at their own game. Standout track is the brilliant ‘Shooting Jenny’, with its wah-wah strut and orch-synth flamboyance; somebody release it as a single (preferably on Invicta Hi-Fi!) As the fizzing sinews of ‘Zebedee’ fade, I feel I can hail Merchandise as the new kings of electronic talent. Can’t wait for what will happen next!
“If an early incarnation of the Human League had fired Phil Oakey, replaced him with Mark E. Smith and steered clear of the dancing girls, they may well have ended up sounding like Merchandise.”
Under their adopted moniker of Merchandise, Bolton duo Brad B. Wood and Conrad Astley compose some of the most enchanting and eclectic lo-fi noodlings outside the Twisted Nerve stable.
As you’d expect of a duo who appropriated their name from a Fugazi song, the mood of their debut album is both restless and beguiling – sometimes frustratingly so. Veering between quirky lo-fi pop to hazy electronica and visceral punk, the duo’s sonic adventurism is a hypnotic blend of Air’s kitsch pop and Stereolab’s left field dilettantism. Sure, they occasionally wander into self indulgent, sub – Aphex Twin territory, but the quirky playfulness in tracks like ‘Other Thrills’ tends to endear rather than annoy the listener. In fact, the album’s finest tracks are the gentler, near ambient offerings like the melancholic, mesmerising instrumental ‘Hi Honey, I’m Home’ or the Spacemen 3-esque ‘Books’, when the duo’s cogent pop impact proves irresistible.
An inconsistent album sure, but there’s a refreshing charm and deftness of tough here nonetheless.
David Sue 3/5
From: Robots and Electronic Brians – e-zine
At its simplest, ‘this is . . ‘ beatbox pop. At its best, on tracks like the snarling ‘New Resurrection’, ‘This is . . ‘ Bis with real muscles and testosterone or, when the underlying lounge loops take centre stage, ‘This is. . . ‘ John Simms. ‘Hi Honey I’m Home’ substitutes the brawn for stimulation of the cocktail kind and ‘Books’ for acid techno made by torturing a mouse while Pram plink and plonk in a pastoral manner. ‘Short one with Snare’ aside from it’s pleasing brevity and efficiency of title, delights with soft drum and bass and a single, gentle jazz piano chord while closer, ‘Zebedee’ should have been a springy blast confounds by being a beefed up version of the same. It appears that Merchandise have come up with the goods.
From: Re:mote Induction (e-zine)
Merchandise appear young though I know not if this be the case. Their product has the energy of youth. The Manchester based pair have, quite successfully I feel, merged electronica with chunky indiepunkpop. The opening track, running at just over a minute long, coming over like Mark E. Smith in admiration of Bis. This may very well sound stomach churning, most journalistic analogies like this are, however their chunky impetuous jangle falls this, the respectable side of cynical whoredom. It would be so easy for Merchandise to take what they have and market themselves, perhaps with a few over-produced orchestrated numbers, as the next Ash or, god forbid, Younger Younger 28, (yet another contrived gimmicky British indie pop band).
There are five vocal tracks in total leaving the remaining six to their own instrumental devices. Here they counterbalance their edginess with progressively concentric calmness through a kind of 70s cool with hints of nineties click culture, (sort of Stereolab slash Air as they would put it).
This is a curious mix of mediums that blend with careful continuity and pleasing productivity. They may however have problems finding their audience in the middle ground of their subtle diversity and mood variants. I kinda like it but.