Friday, 14 September 2012
100 LPs Shortlist #20: The Mermen - "Food For Other Fish"
Surf music, at least in the way that Dick Dale first envisioned it, is cool. It has since been co-opted and watered down by acts who had a far more tepid approach (The Beach Boys and The Ventures, I'm looking at you!), however the core approach to the music was a fiery, aggressive style of guitar-based instrumental music with some echo-y guitar effects applied.
For some reason, out of the blue, Surf music made a resurgence in the 1990s. Dick Dale made a successful comeback with a more fired up sound on albums like "Tribal Thunder" and "Calling Up Spirits". His playing on those records was more ferocious than a player half his age (he was in his 60s at the time). A number of other bands came along at the same time - The Aqua Velvets and The Mermen are among those that spring to mind.
The Mermen (the male equivalent of a Mermaid, it seems) had been around for a few years by the time "Food For Other Fish" was released in 1994. They had honed their style in and around various clubs in California, refining a sound that is equal parts Dick Dale, Pink Floyd and Sonic Youth.
The longer pieces are spacey and atmospheric a la Floyd, coupled with small amounts of extreme digitally-processed guitar noise a la Sonic Youth. The energy they create on songs like "Honeybomb" is white-hot. "Ocean Beach" and "Be My Noir" are both gorgeously atmospheric. "Ocean Beach" has to be one of the best songs ever to get you pumped up for summer.
If anything should be criticised about the album is that it's a long record - 70+ minutes. However, it doesn't always feel like it's long - it's that enjoyable. As we lead up to Summer here in Oz, kick back and enjoy the sounds of The Mermen.