Rock music is going through some serious growing pains right now. If you’ve been following the business lately, then you’re already aware of the circumstances we’ve been dealing with. The old guard is aging out of the system, and it’s not exactly like there’s been a clear-cut group of successors to emerge thus far. Really, there hasn’t been a sense of unity in any of American rock music’s most viable scenes in the last decade, and it’s no wonder why.
Major label rock artists haven’t been doing anything other than providing consistently bland records from year to year, standing by in the background and essentially doing the same thing that Netflix, Paramount and the other Hollywood billboards are doing: rehashing the past. ‘Let’s remake Who’s Next but call it something else, market it as our most diverse effort yet.’ or ‘How about we go for that Sia vibe but we try and add a bunch of White Stripes style stripped down garage parts?’ It’s trite and pathetic. And The Merrymakers Orchestrina aren’t having any of it.
In their debut album Act 3, the trio of sonic pioneers are breaking out and not taking any prisoners. Maroon 5 dance album? No. Imagine Dragons sparkly radio-ready trash? I don’t think so. Guitar’s the star? Check. Warmth of the tube amplifiers doing more of the talking than post-production overdrive? Double check. Bluesy time signatures and an overwhelming sense of rebellion to push us off the cliff and into the exhilarating freefall? Triple check. As far as I’m concerned, Act 3 isn’t a modern rock album, and that’s a good thing. This is music to challenge the hierarchy of things. This is their expression of anarchy in the age of the Instagram band.
In the album’s opening track “Together,” The Merrymakers Orchestrina fire off a salutatory anthem that introduces us to just what we’re in for on this 13-track audiological adventure. Much like one of the most important bands in the history of alternative music, Fugazi, there’s a furious energy and uncontainable passion that just spills out of the speakers uncontrollably when this band lays into a riff. It’s like they’re a shot of adrenaline moving in slow motion, allowing us to see all of the tiny parts working in perfect synchronicity to produce the ecstasy that we’re experiencing in their sound.
Lead guitarist Ryan Shivdasani seems to sway back and forth like a pendulum, occasionally letting us get close to see how his prose is creating a vulnerability for both us and him, but then just as quickly withdrawing, pulling away from view and leaving us in a fog of mystique that is ironically addictive to get lost in. These are the qualities that we talk about when we say that our generation needs a compelling frontman.
Act 3 is far from a perfect rookie release; it runs a little long for my taste and definitely could have benefited from being arranged a little differently just to improve the general flow of the album, but overall I think we can get a pretty good idea of the identity that The Merrymakers Orchestrina is going for. I for one think it’s well worth any music enthusiast’s time to give them a listen to find out for themselves just what all of the buzz is about.
-review by Scottie Carlito