This was my Music of the Week post on August 10, 2008--exactly nine years ago today. I didn't pick it for that reason. Without working too hard at considering alternatives, I'd say this is my favorite instrumental rock album. But that's a very narrow field.
The Mermen are an instrumental trio roughly classified as neo-surf, but the relationship between their music and that of, say, Dick Dale (“Misirlou”) or The Chantays (“Pipeline”) is about like that between Beethoven’s symphonies and Haydn’s. This album might be described succinctly as Dick Dale meets Jimi Hendrix. The reverb and the minor-key melodies—that general early ‘60s vibe—are here, but they’re only the starting point for a pretty wild ride, sweetly beautiful or hard-rocking passages spiced with howling and shrieking distorted guitar, a combination of melody and noise that I love.
I’ve forgotten how I first heard of the group, but it was a good ten years ago that I bought this album (it was released in 1995). I was very taken with it, and in fact I put it on a desert-island list here a year or two ago. But I hadn’t listened to it for some years until I got a yen for it last week. It doesn’t seem quite as good as I remember, but it’s still really fine. My favorite tracks are the long ones, especially the nine-minute-plus “Between I and Thou” and “And the Flowers They’ll Bloom,” which are basically fairly simple, pretty figures that serve as a basis for variations exhibiting a wide, wild range of guitar colors and dynamics.
This was the first time I’d ever listened to the album on my home stereo—I had previously heard it only in the car, where there is almost no bass detectable. I was a little surprised to discover that the group has a real thunder-lizard low end. And the bass player is really good.
Here are a slow one, a fast one, and a long one.
--Mac is the proprietor of this blog.