Review Summary: I loved you, I loved you never.
Merchant Ships will always be a gem lost in a sea of midwestern emo bands. Their angular melodies and sentimental screaming originate stylistically back to the various musical projects of the Kinsella brothers. Between both musical acts are a history of forgettable melodic janglings produced by countless bands who have garnered little attention, yet strike a chord locally. The first half of Merchant Ship's discography is a mere celebration of the genre, an essential component of the emo aesthetic. The nature of the genre admittedly delves little into innovation, however recalls a mutual utilization of specific tendencies(poppy melodies, off-kilter rhythms et al) and applies it to the more individual personalities and songwriting of various bands. This can be seen in Merchant Ships defining aspects of bare instrumentation, humorous song titles, child-like perspective, and a perfect blend of irony and emotion(see: The opening monologue to My Journey To The Weed Den
). The songs are simple and rough, achieving what passion it can in two or three minutes. The first half ends on Long Term Relationships Were Only Cool When Divorce Wasn't
, a moody piece detailing angst towards family struggles and a broken home, ending in a collective chant.
We stand on our own, looking for a place to call our home
The last six songs on the discography separate themselves from the first half, being written later in the band's career and being structurally enhanced. They feature a more dynamic sound and are a cathartic grouping of songs. While the melodies and sound are still the same, the band takes a nearly screamo-esque approach to their music. The songs switch from rockabilly pacing, to slower guitar breakdowns, to moments like the opening smorgasbord of guitars and vocals of Birthday
that emote pure passion. The instrumentals reach an entirely more complex level of musicianship, unique guitar phrasings juxtaposed with a dynamic rhythm section covering more ground than often achieved by most hardcore bands. The vocalist retains his same bark, often channeling Loma Prieta's singer. Throughout the disc he vents out ridiculously moving lyrics, epitomized by the rough singing on Old Grey
"remember the times we can’t have back, but fu
ck the past; soon we’ll be alright, we’ve made plans to hold up our heads high."
The discography works as an enjoyable progression, ultimately entailing everything from the quirks of the opening tracks all the way to the final epic "Dying", which features the most intense and brilliantly transitioned instrumental work heard in the past decade of "Kinsella rip-offs". Its lack of recognition allows it to be what it's best at; a rough packaging of personalized hardcore tunes, disconnected from any source but the listener.