Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Ranks with "Sgt Pepper" & "Getz/Gilberto", 1 of the greatest
W. B. Abbott | Oakland, CA USA | 07/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this disc when it came out and it was stunning then and remains stunning now. "My Black Bag" and "Honey Bomb" have a raging delerium that instantly differentiates them from anything you've heard before. "Ocean Beach" is a lyrical portrait that should have been a hit single, "The Drift" a surf workout that subverts classic surf while paying homage (If The Mermen can find so much delight and surprise in this genre, why can't others?) "Raglan" is a sweet, Celtic-spiced tune that fits completely, but shows the band's amazing breadth, placed between the ambient chamber music of, "Be My Noir" and the up-tempo rocker, "The Silly Elephant That Stomped to Tea".
There's not a bad tune or a wasted bar on this whole CD. I'm serious about the headline- its like "Sgt. Pepper" or "Getz/Gilberto" or Brubeck's "Take Five", Bela Fleck and the Flecktones "Flight Of The Cosmic Hippo", Ormandy and Fox's recording of Saint-Saens' Symphony Number 3, Martha Argerich playing Rachmaninoff's Concerto for Piano number 3, Jai Uttal's "Monkey", Strunz & Farah "Live", or David Grisman's "Mondo Mando"- however you define intense, expressive, timeless music, this is more. In spades.
The Mermen blend the technique of psychedlic rock with the intensity of classical and jazz composition. No boogie-ing on, no solos over vamps. On this, their first CD, composer/guitarist Jim Thomas, bassist Allen Whitman and drummer Martyn Jones captured their live sound in a set of songs that they had been playing for the previous decade. Most of this disc was played live into a 2 track DAT recorder. I saw them then, and they really were that good. Perfect in one take.
Thomas' devotion to clean sound was at its height, whether playing sweetly and gently or juggling raw electricity like Jimi Hendrix or Duane Allman. He sounds like an angel who learned to play surf but couldn't quite forget the heavenly choir. Even as he pulls you into a curling feedback tube and lets it collapse in a million droplets of howling noise around you. Thomas's music is, without question, *about* the sea, about surfing. No band has been better named. This disc is the great surf novel, expressing in music a range of emotions and images that might be impossible to find words for.
Whitman's bass playing is a brilliant foil for Thomas here- carrying some or all of the melody some times, providing counterpoint. The way bass and guitar trade melodic lines, the way all three instruments take turns supporting rhythm or melody is miles and miles beyond anyone else playing 'surf music'. "Ocean Beach" is a case in point- the song is essentially a bass solo supported by guitar solos. Forget Dick Dale, Laika and the Cosmonauts, etc, etc. Whitman was the best bassist working in this field in those days and resets your expectations forever after.
Martyn Jones' drumming combines relaxed competence with a cymbal sound that is so close to crashing surf that the effect cannot be accidental. As much as the 'surf' flavor of the melody and playing, Jones' spare and dynamic drumming conveys the feel of the sea. He starts some songs, ends some songs and adds that one extra touch that makes a good song great- the ska-like rim-shots at the end of "Ocean Beach" for example. The shimmering AND ticking cymbals, and dramatic rolls, that make "Be My Noir" such a delight.
Listen to this record. Buy this record. Find something you love as much as these men loved this music, and maybe you'll be lucky enough to create something a fraction as beautiful."
I heard this and bought them all!
W. B. Abbott | 11/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Mermen play the music I've waited my whole life to hear. Before hearing them I never knew it could exist so beatifully. The endorphins of a first orgasm, but for 42 minutes"