Sunday Night Journal, August 6, 2017
Sunday Night Journal, August 13, 2017

52 Albums, Week 32: A Glorious Lethal Euphoria (The Mermen)

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.


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My favorite instrumental rock album is The Grand Wazoo by Frank Zappa. It is actually pretty jazzy, a jazz fusion sort of deal, but since Zappa was a rock guy I'll pick that. Other than that I would have to say certain tracks by Rush, and others by Metallica I really love that have no singing. But this stuff is fun too!

And Bowie! It just came to me that his "Berlin trilogy" has really great instrumental tracks, which brings us directly to Brian Eno who I know you are a fan of, Mac.

Yes, I am. I'm not much of a Bowie fan but I like those tracks, too, which I guess are probably mainly Eno's work. I've been figuring I would include one ambient album in this series and it might be one of Eno's.

I've never gotten very excited about most of Zappa's music, though it has its moments. I like Hot Rats. Not sure I've heard Grand Wazoo. I didn't even know Metallica had any instrumentals.

If you like Hot Rats you would also like The Grand Wazoo, the musicality is similar. Not to mention they both have great album covers!

I remember at the time thinking that the cover of Hot Rats was very funny.

From out of the past:

In some sort of newly-developed dyslexia, I keep reading "Lethal Euphoria" as "Eva Longoria" and am expecting a photo of that actress instead of the album info you have posted here.

Maybe you need a nap? :-)

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