Merchandise at Schubas | Photos and review
Tampa, Florida trio Merchandise has been generating a good deal of buzz for the past few months, largely thanks to favorable reviews from the tastemakers at Pitchfork. Rightfully so: their 2012 release Children of Desire beautifully merges guitar noise and drum machines with Carson Cox’s almost anthemic songwriting and Morissey-esque croon. It’s an unlikely mix without one good genre tag, though punk tends to be what most writers talk about because of the trio’s DIY punk and hardcore roots.
Schuba’s was packed last night by the time the band took the stage around 11:30pm for their Tomorrow Never Knows Festival slot. It didn’t take them long to win over the room as they launched into “Anxiety’s Door,” an expansive new single from the forthcoming Total Nite EP. Just like their best songs from Children of Desire, “Anxiety’s Door” has that perfect combination of a propulsive drum-machine beat with wiry guitar lines from David Vassalotti and Patrick Brady’s insistent buzzing bass lines.
Their set was a little on the short side, but Merchandise covered a range of material including some songs from 2010’s Strange Songs (In the Dark). While one of these tunes kicked the audience up front into a frenzy, some older songs sounded lost in the noise. This trio is at their best on songs like “Time” and “Become What You Are,” which unfold gradually and find Cox singing with more confidence. “Become What You Are” was the clear highlight of the night in all of its sprawling, messy glory, ending with a piercing wall of guitar noise and feedback.
Merchandise’s music occupies an undefined space between bedroom pop and punk (or whatever other noisy guitar genre you feel like citing). The band’s physicality on stage definitely belies their DIY punk/hardcore past, but you also get the sense that frontman Cox is a bit of a romantic from his lyrics and his melodies. His vocals didn’t sound as great as they do on the new record, but his occasionally Moz-like croon is one of this band’s many strengths. The audience couldn’t quite figure out if the trio’s sound was punk or pop either, with one faction peacefully bedroom dancing while the other side of the crowd tried to kick up a mosh pit.
Unlike other young bands who breeze through clubs on the strength of a 7” and can’t put on a live show, Merchandise’s years of DIY experience have them primed for what Cox jokingly called “respectable venues for adults.” Apparently, they’ll be back in town soon, and possibly with a drummer in tow. Until then, you can download all of their albums from their website.