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You know what would really be great?

52 Guitars: Week 38

Jim Thomas

Who? Well, allow me to introduce you to The Mermen. Don't be too quick to turn up the sound.


They're an instrumental trio who began around 1990 as a sort of neo-surf band, but they've gone far afield from that, though you can still hear some of it in their sound, which at times might be described as Dick Dale meets Jimi Hendrix. Their web site calls it "psychedelic instrumental ocean music," and says that the band's name was derived from the Jimi Hendrix song/soundscape "1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be").

Thomas is the guitarist, and along with bassist Allen Whitman and drummer Martyn Jones the Mermen make music that is both fierce and melodic. Their 1995 album A Glorious Lethal Euphoria is one of my all-time favorite albums, period. The opening track from it, "Pulpin' Line", is the one I really wanted to use instead of the preceding track, but the album version is not on YouTube. There are some decent live performances of it, but they don't have the same intensity, and the sound quality is not so great.

Here's something from that album. Again, don't be quick to turn up the sound.


They aren't always fast and loud and noisy; sometimes they're slow and loud and noisy, and sometimes they're even quiet. "And the Flowers They'll Bloom", all nearly-ten-minutes of it, is a showcase for the expressive power of an electric guitar and a rack full of effects.


There is a strangely mystical quality about the album, as is suggested by the cover (what you see in the two "videos" above), and by some of the song titles: "The Drowning Man Knows His God," "With No Definite Future and No Purpose Except to Prevail Somehow." Other titles are just whimsical, often somewhat bent, e.g. "Scalp Salad."

The Mermen seem to have become a sort of cult California jam band. Until a few minutes ago, when I looked at their web site, I didn't think they'd released an album since 2000's Amazing California Health and Happiness Road Show, but there is a more recent one, In God We Trust. I like Road Show but I'll be surprised if they ever surpass Euphoria. If you like what I've posted here, get it--you won't be sorry. (The first track is from Songs of the Cows, a less-than-full-length follow-up to Euphoria and sounds very much like it, and is almost as good.)


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No, they're great!


Not, I admit, very good Sunday morning music.

I've enjoyed them all so much it was surprising to get one that gave me such a negative reaction. And many of the guys you've had have been people I would have thought I wouldn't like much. But they were great. Now, a band with a name like 'The Mermen' sounds to me like something I'd like. It was not to be.

I'm surprised to hear you've liked them all so far. I didn't expect anybody to like them all. You even liked Sonic Youth?

I expected to get some complaints about them, actually.

There may be some I mossed when I was in Europe. I was in England the whole of June after the failrd camino and in Spain for the first two weeks of August after Strats funeral. There are almost no internet cafes left in Spain or computrrs in bars

You should like next week's better, if I can find it on YouTube.

I just spent a couple of days up in Arcata, California, which has a sizeable, or at least noticeable, number of folks who look for all the world as if they stepped out of a Life magazine feature on 1960s hippies. I bet they'd love The Mermen. For me, "psychedelic instrumental ocean music" really just doesn't cut it. But then I've always been an old fuddy-duddy.

Ooh! So you're finally getting around to Chet Atkins?!?!?

Um...well...maybe soon.

That definitely sounds like the Mermen's audience, Marianne.

I liked several very loud guitar which you have put on but they were solos. It is called picking I believe.

I do like loud, but 'heavy' is another thing...

I'm listening to The Decembrists and I like that!

I haven't posted anything very heavy. I'll have to find something....:-)

I like the Decemberists. Interesting and well-crafted, if sometimes MFA-ish lyrics.

a guy I know on facebook put them up.

I really wish I knew how to do 'itunes' or download things the way everyone else does because I'd like to have all 52 '52 Guitarists' together as a kind of album. I wish I knew how to do that. It would be outrageous to make my GA do that. Unfortunately.

I thought GAs were supposed to be more or less slaves, or at least indentured servants. But if you mean my specific 52 Guitars selections, that would be tricky. Might need special software or even hardware, depending on the PC, to capture the audio from a YT video. Basically you're trying to play and record from the same source, it doesn't necessarily work.

I meant an album with your selections

You could come close, but a certain amount of what I've posted has been live performances that aren't available on cd (mp3, whatever). You could *probably* do iTunes without technical assistance.:-) But I have seen a lot of people on, for instance, the eMusic bulletin board saying "help, all my music disappeared!!". That could be a tragic situation.

Spotify doesn't have Euphoria, but it does have others, including Do you Hear What I Hear? A Very Mermen Christmas," which has a very surfy feel to it. I'm going to put it on my Christmas playlist.

I like these guys better than I thought I would. In fact, when you posted it, your warnings made me not listen. Until today. My curiosity got the better of me.

They have a song called "The Whales are coming and boy are they pissed."

They do have a dreamy quality. Not exactly mystical, perhaps.

It is also not always hard. Take "To be naked and French is always hard," for instance. The guitar work sounds like it is influenced by my favorite guitarist, Chet Atkins.

Oops. I did that thing. Let's see if this fixes it.

Nope. I guess you'll have to do it, Maclin.

You got it. I'll go back and clean it a bit further upstream, though.

I noticed that "Whales" title--yes, funny--when I was looking for clips, but haven't listened to it. "To Be Naked..." is from the Roadshow album, which in general has a much more varied sound than GLE. I was kind of avoiding the Christmas album but maybe I should give it a chance.

Interesting. I think I could enjoy the odd song if it were part of a mix but I don't think I could listen to them at length.

I guess it could be like - once some musical troupe came and gave us a week of Messaien at Aberdeen. About an hour of the organ music was great. Two hours of the organ music was hell.

Heh. Surely "hell" is a bit of an exaggeration, though I admit two hours of even Bach's organ music would be too much for me, let alone Messaien's.

I admit I don't listen to all of Euphoria at once, but then I don't do that with many cds--they're too long. Especially with pop music, there aren't many artists I want to listen to for an hour or more at one sitting.

well, I didn't have time to write more, but all I can say is that, for me, it was descending into unbearability. I left after about an hour an a half. The first hour was fabulous. But then it just got to be too much. I went to a lot of them for the whole week - there was Messaien organ, Messaien piano, and so on. It was only the Organ that really became a headache after long exposure.

The organ is kind of an overbearing instrument. It produces a volume of sound comparable to that of an orchestra, but without the tonal variety. It can have a turgid quality. I really love it in small doses, but it's not meant for two-hour recitals. Or at any rate I'm not meant for two-hour organ recitals.

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