Merpeoples have been humming around the edge of being almost sorta kinda popular for a long time now, ever since they received the curse of being tipped by me in one of those “artists to look out for in the forthcoming year” articles I no longer get asked to write back at the end of 2009. Anyway, one mini album and one full length release down the line, they’re still much where they were, with a fanbase divided between those who seem to treat them like a sort of idol band and those indie/new wave types in the alternative scene who are always on the lookout for fun bands with a grasp of melody to counteract some of their own scene’s occasionally oppressive self-seriousness. Sadly, that role in the alternative scene has increasingly been outsourced to straight-up pre-fab idol confections, leaving Merpeoples not quite an idol band themselves but without really enough muso prog-pop seriousness to work as a kind of Negoto-esque Rockin’ On magazine type girl group.
Rather Merpeoples are a peppy, new wave-influenced guitar pop group who make music of the sort that journalists used to call “foot-tapping” before that term became damning with faint praise. That’s not to say their music is simplistic though, and Silent Sleep plays a couple of neat games with the rhythm, introducing a half-hiccup in the beat (which is always a super cool thing to do in dance pop — make the bastard audience work for it!) and slowing it down for the bridge, and bringing in a funkier, more propulsive bassline in the second verse. It’s an elegantly constructed pop song with melodic elements that hop between spiky, yearning and sweeping, each instrument stepping to the fore in successive sections and each element doing its pop job of being catchy but at the same time intelligent pop music.Merpeoples: Silent Sleep
The B-side, Tinkle, is a similarly accomplished new wave-influenced pop tune, with the keyboard-let arrangement, meandering guitar and overlapping vocals recalling Fukuoka art-wave supergroup Miu Mau. On the chorus though, the band seem to go for broke and aim for something epic and anthemic, in the process losing an important aspect of the tension that their music has between the more oddball and the J-pop elements when it’s at its very best and most distinctive. Taken as a whole, however, it’s hard to fault the two sides of this single, and one has to hope that there are people outside the group’s small coterie of dedicated fans still willing to give them a listen.
2 responses to “Merpeoples: Silent Sleep”
I love new wave-influenced songs and bands. Talking Heads, B-52’s, Cars, etc were dead center my favorite in late 70s and early 80s. I want to like this song, and it has all the musical elements, but I kind of miss the extraordinary vocals that David Byrne, Cindy Wilson, Ric Ocasek, etc, all brought to the bounce of New Wave music. Judy and Mary has nothing without Yuki Isoya; she gives you so much vocally, she completely wins me over, in seconds.These were all pretty intense, and the vocalist here is just so mild–a little too smooth and under-the-mix to be able to take me along. If I were her producer in the studio, I’d want to persuade her to just one more take at the end with her voice turned up to 11, see what happens. Supercool and laid-back is also a style for vocals, I understand, and some can pull it off really well (Deborah Harry, Toshiko Koshijima, contrasting examples). But then that has to be developed as well, and there’s usually a lot more going on in the instrumentals.
Any chance of getting a link to the B-side?
Fun band, kinda reminds me of Bloc Party. I first heard about them on a Next Music From Tokyo compilation, nothing that stands up but songs like Picasso are sort of catchy. But why are they considered “idols”? Because they’re attractive?