Radar Band Of The Week – No. 111: Merchandise

“The punks will probably hate it.” So claimed Merchandise frontman Carson Cox of his band’s then-gestating new album, in a rather terse email to Radar back in December 2011. The world didn’t know it yet, but Cox was in the midst of a profound reinvention. Rather than use his next record to cement his reputation in American hardcore DIY circles following years of performing under various guises (see: Neon Blud, Church Whip, Cult Ritual), the Tampa, Florida native had instead chosen to abdicate the throne.

Released online as a free download in April this year, the sound of ‘Children Of Desire’ is about the furthest thing imaginable from a DIY record. Though it was recorded at Cox’s home, just like its predecessor ‘(Strange Songs) In The Dark’, the album is as massive as it is expansive, layering dissonant squalls, loops and reverb effects to create a fierce post-punk menace. Cox’s blunt body-blows of yore, influenced by Black Flag and Fugazi, have been replaced by a creeping, ominous dread rooted not in US hardcore but rather in the roiling anti-pop of ’80s Britain. The Jesus And Mary Chain’s brilliant ‘Psychocandy’ must have been essential listening during recording, you can’t help but feel.

Merchandise (the trio is completed by guitarist David Vassalotti and bassist Patrick Brady) may now find themselves in exile from the scene that birthed them, but ‘Children Of Desire’ has unexpectedly earned them supporters far beyond the insular environs of western Florida. Since the album’s release, the band have accumulated reams of press, and Cox admits that the correspondence from labels both at home and abroad is “starting to clutter up my room”. This week they play New York’s annual new bands seminar, CMJ, where they are undoubtedly the star attraction.

For Cox, the validation is especially gratifying in 2012, after so many years of toiling in obscurity. “We did so much as a fucked-up shitty punk band. That was every band I was in – all feedback, no tone. Show up and leave. But it’s time now to grow.” The punks can hate all they like, but Cox always planned on having the last laugh.

Jonathan Garrett

Need To Know
Based: Tampa, Florida
For Fans Of: The Cure, The Jesus And Mary Chain
Buy It Now: Physical copies of ‘Children Of Desire’ have now sold out, but it’s still available to download for free online
Believe It Or Not: Merchandise have been touring with Milk Music and Iceage recently