When I think of Florida, I think of orange juice, palm trees and white sandy beaches. But Tampa band Merchandise’s new LP, Totale Nite, is more like whiskey, oak trees and acres of ominous forests. While only five songs long, the LP stretches out over 33 minutes and features elements ranging from acoustic and electric guitars to harmonicas and bashing drums. Totale Nite is the band’s first project since 2012′s highly acclaimed Children Of Desire, and much like the former, Totale Nite is hard to classify in a single genre. At times it’s soothing pop, and at other times it’s headbang-ready punk. But if you sit down and try to solve where this band fits, you’ll end up missing out on a well-put-together album.
The first song off the LP, “Who Are You?,” is introduced with a snarling harmonica and then united with lead singer Carson Cox’s baritone voice as he sings, “Today the sun rose/Like the hand of god/Made the Earth breathe again.” The words are a bit more poetic and mature than those found on Children Of Desire, though both albums contain that romantic quality attributed to anything reminiscent of Morrissey.
Cox’s vocals take the front seat throughout most of the album, and for good reason. He croons majestically on “Anxiety’s Door” as the electric guitar and bass synchronize with his sturdy vocals. “I know my body’s from here/I feel my blood run cold,” he sings. It’s the exact opposite of what I felt after listening to this track, an upbeat poppy song that gets your feet moving and sends you back to the ’80s dance clubs, even if you were never there.
“Winter’s Dream” is a dreary, droning song that recounts a young man’s life and death. It is one of the only songs where the bass and guitars take the lead and create the mood that Cox usually sets up for us. The climax is really the penultimate song of the LP, the album’s title track. “Totale Nite” is basically everything the album features mushed up into one nine-minute song. It features electric and acoustic guitar, synths, booming percussion, that wonderful harmonica and imposing lyrics from Cox.
As Cox said in a 2011 interview, “I’m taking the chance that there are people like me outside of punk by playing whatever I like. Genres are not for us.” Totale Nite is in line with that stance, refusing to fit into any one predetermined genre. That might be off-putting to some, but it also means that this album has the potential to appeal to imaginative listeners with a wide range of tastes.