by Tom Roden
The skeptics among us might believe that music is stuck in something of a twenty year loop. Recent years have seen a resurrection in synthpop akin to mid 80s electro, a rebirth in late 80s shoegaze and, now, a return to early 90s grunge.
Nevermind though, as that doesn’t make the latest cycle any less enjoyable, as Mermaidens‘ latest offering makes abundantly clear. The threesome’s second album, Perfect Body, is a disillusioned drone of indulgent grunge offerings that are each imbued with a unique sense of despair, disappointment and dead-behind-the-eyes angst. Each track on the album serves as the perfect bridge between grunge and shoegaze, smothering listeners in a blanket of dulcet tones and subdued energy.
This is what really helps the band stand apart from the grunge of old. Tracks like the titular Perfect Body and Mind Slow hold the same lumbering basslines, thumping drums and tense guitars as the scene, but without the explosive bursts. Everything is brooding, moody and emotionally weary, serving as chantalong hymns to angst rather than an outlet for it.
That’s not to say that it all stays slow and brooding throughout. Sunstone offers up the album’s most well-rounded track as it balances blistering guitar tones and an chaotic chorus with a simple melodic singalong bridge that brings listeners back to the hymnal nature of the album. Likewise, Lizard provides an indie-esque vibe that feels — by the standards of the rest of the album — almost uplifting in its vocal melodies and expansive guitar lines.
No other track highlights the duality of the band quite like Satsuma, a song that uses the primal beating of off-kilter drums with swelling bass grooves to give a lumbering momentum that is punctuated with distorted guitar stabs and pulses of unbridled energy. It’s a one-off balancing act that works perfectly, which makes it the pinnacle of the album’s power.
This is no bad thing. Perfect Body is an unusual offering in that, while it is the band’s second full-length, it will effectively serve as the introduction to the threesome for many international listeners. With its consistent and careful balance of grunge elements and brooding shoegaze structures, you couldn’t ask to leave a better first impression than this.