Me and my new Merz albun
Merz’s singular vocals – pitched somewhere between Bob Dylan and Horace Andy (to my ears anyway) – first surfaced in 1999 with his eponymous debut album and a couple of memorable singles that got a lot of airplay on Radio One and the likes. A mix of (sometimes baroque) folk, hip-hop and drum and bass breaks, and lushly orchestrated pop, it was a very Bristolian take on nineties indie augmented by generous helpings of electronica. Whereas now only the brilliant ‘Engine Heart’ and funky ‘Lovely Daughter’ truly stand out from that record, the feeling is that Merz – with his knack for melody and cross-over appeal – could have been much bigger. In fact he went on a prolonged haitus, resurfacing with a well-received sophomore effort ‘Loveheart’ (that I haven’t heard) in 2005.
‘Moi and Mon Camion‘ finds Merz – aka Conrad Lambert – evicted from his home and on the road, opening with the literal (or simulated) sound of the eponymous removal van driving away. The title track that follows is a beautiful piece of Dylan-esque folk, albeit relocated to urban Britain, embellished with some subtle electronics. While Merz’s lyrical abilities don’t really compare to Dylan’s, his croakily nasal vocals are still powefully emotive – better still that he is less acrobatic with them than on his debut. ‘Call Me’ continues in this vein but suffers a little when Lambert over-emotes some particularly prosaic lyrics: “Don’t hang your head so low, help me share your load”.
‘Shun (Sad Eyed Days)’ is further leftfield, leaving the folk atmospherics behind for burbling electro – marred slightly at the end by some spectacularly retro synths ugly enough to make Hot Chip blush. This is followed by two more experimental passages but Merz is stronger at image-rich romanticsm (the otherworldly ‘Silver Moon Ladders’) than fey melancholy (the ponderous baroque of ‘Malcolm’).
‘Presume Too Much’ has the radio-friendly hooks but is a veers a little to close to the middle of the road for my liking. Better is the jaunty ‘Lucky Adam’, an infectious and propulsive folk-pop track. Thereafter Moi and Mon Camion returns to the folksy pastoral textures with (on ‘Cover Me’) a twist of Nick Drake for good measure. While ‘No Bells Left To Chime’ is whimsical and rudderless, Merz transforms into a folk troubador in the mold of Tim Buckley for the final, timeless ‘The First And Last Waltz’. Despite some false steps, fans of Feist, Bon Iver, Micah P Hinson and aforementioned folk luminaries may find something to like here.