The vibrant tonality of 60’s garage rock and folk music is brought into the full-color, high definition sound of 2019 in The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina’s Little King and the Salamander (demos), which presents listeners with a fourteen track collection of rough cuts and abrasive jams that are as stylish as they are cerebral. The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina slices into us with acoustic melancholy ala “She’ll Do Anything,” jazzy numbers like “What Fools We Can Be” and “Particle Craze,” and straight up neurotic violence like that of “Jeepers Creepers,” but their grizzly method of melodicism is constantly flanked with a soft, spacey vibe that mellows out the harshest of grooves. Highly recommendable to fans of experimental music as well as more conventional rock n’ roll, Little King and the Salamander (demos) lives up to its zany title and offers us a musicality worthy of the buzz it’s received.
Tension is paramount in the construction of tracks like “White Light and Lullabies,” “Together,” and “Slip Away (Dreamin’ Again),” but it doesn’t slow the pace of the music in the least. While of the songs here share a similar structure that leans heavily on iconic pop simplicity, The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina are a group that are more than comfortable manipulating a familiar beat into a jarring, psychedelic anthem (such as with the acoustic “Fade into the Night,” “I Have Always Been There” and the haunting “I’ll Be (Kisses at Your Door),” my favorite song on the album). The fact that this is essentially a demo disc says a lot about the raw skill and natural chemistry of the band, which is tantamount to what most groups would have to rehearse into existence.
In the track “The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina,” we’re dazzled with the cosmetic finish of the music, which is light and airy yet unforgivably gripping - a common theme found in a lot of the material on this record. For every cosmetically striking song that we encounter here, there’s a compositionally complex track to balance it out, (which is exemplified in the subtle “She’ll Do Anything” and its punky successor “Together” wonderfully). Many layers comprise Little King and the Salamander (demos), but they fuse together to create arguably the most cohesive, well-rounded sampling of a band that hasn’t just found their sound; they’ve learned to master it’s every nuance.
Don’t let the name of this LP fool you; Little King and the Salamander (demos) is far more cunning and highbrow than your average anthology of untried material, and I think beside the output of their peers it stands out as one of the most refreshingly organic rock records that you’ll hear in all of 2019. The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina display a wry sense of wit and wisdom in these lyrics and the music accompanying them that you don’t often see among all of the plasticity in contemporary pop music, and though their sound is steeped in tradition, it isn’t restricted by the scope of its stylization. Go out of your way to acquire this album when you come across it; it’s nothing short of a relentlessly groove-laden diamond in the rough.