Album review: Mermaidens

Mermaidens - Perfect Body (Flying Nun)

Mermaidens.

Mermaidens.

WHEN IT comes to describing New Zealand rock music, associations tend towards either the melodic post-punk/indie of The Chills or The Clean (both linked with the Flying Nun label ) or the melodic, sophisticated pop-rock of Crowded House.

Generally the shorthand is 'melodic'. Mermaidens don't fit into this category. Their music is more about haunted, chanted, vocal mantras, quiet/loud dynamics, and the kind of guitar arpeggios which growl as well as chime, and hint at menace and mystery - 'Lizard' and 'Satsuma' are smörgåsbord of such guitar picking, and in the hands of guitarist/vocalist and band leader, Gussie Larkin, becomes a very powerful weapon.

The psychedelia of Soundgarden, and the sonics and tension of Nirvana (rather than Kurt Cobain's melodicism ) are the obvious touchstone for Mermaidens - witness the In Utero style pummelling guitar chord thrashing of 'Sunstone' and the 'Something In The Way' slackened string strumming of 'Smothering Possession'.

Yet Mermaidens are not some grunge revivalist outfit. Grunge is a springboard, not an end in itself. The vocals owe more to Goth and folk-rock, and offer a blissed out contrast to the shifting textures of the guitars. There is also a greater emphasis on atmosphere, rather than being driven by emotional distress (Mermaiden's lyrics are more about consolation, rather than pain ). In short, this is grunge, of a kind, but 2017 style, and very definitely on Kiwi terms.

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