Merchandise live at the Islington Assembly Hall

Merchandise / Lower
Islington Assembly Hall
9th June 2014

LowerIts been about two years since Florida’s premium genre crossing punk band first appeared on the radar. At the time, they had just released breakthrough record Children of Desire on Katorga Works, a label that has released some of the best American punk and hardcore of recent years (Hoax, Hounds of Hate, Creem). Perhaps it is because of this that a gig at the Islington Assembly Hall, a rather grand venue and certainly one you wouldn’t expect to see a Katorga band play, came as such a suprise. However, Merchandise’s star is truly rising, with a record due out on 4AD this year surely to cement that.

Denmark’s Lower opened the proceedings to a somewhat sparse crowd. Lower are a band that carry a fair amount of hype around them, releasing a split with fellow countrymen, Iceage, they are the perfect band to play before Merchandise. A droney post punk band that could play in front of an ATP crowd, or a noisy hardcore crowd.

With a debut LP due out imminently, parts of the band’s set were unfamiliar to much of the crowd, lending to a fairly uninvolving show. With that said, despite a lacklustre response from the audience, the performance was strong. Its clear that the band’s ability to write songs has grown a lot between records, with the new songs played tonight being the highlight. Be sure to see them support label mates (Matador Records) Fucked Up on the 18th June at the Scala.

After Lower, the stage was set for Merchandise. Mercifully, the crowd had grown significantly, and whilst it wasn’t a rammed venue, there certainly appeared to be a lot of support for the band. Merchandise have two main strengths. The first of which is their vocalist Carson Cox, not only does his Morrissey-esque croon hold up throughout the hour they spend on stage, he’s also an excellent frontman, connecting with the crowd with ease throughout, and thanking the audience in such a way that it never comes off as trite. The second highlight of the band is their guitarist D. Vassalotti who is a constant showman, always experimenting with what noise he can create within the surprisingly poppy music being played.

Merchandise_LiveMerchandise played a set that covered much of their discography, from audience favourite ‘Time’ to ending on ‘No You and Me’ from their recent Record Store Day split with Milk Music and Destruction Unit. Perhaps a bold move to finish their set with a song from a split that only a few people may have heard, especially when omitting such well known songs as ‘In Nightmare Room’ yet I believe it to be a risk that paid off.

As well as songs from their past, a couple of new songs were played, most notably ‘Little Killer’, a song that was posted online just a week or so before. What strikes you the most is how hooky this track is, not only catchy but also finishing within four minutes, leading one to wonder if this marks an end to the sprawling, ten minute tracks that made their Children of Desire LP so memorable.

As the show draws to a close, you’re overwhelmed with not only how strong Merchandise’s performance was, but also how accessible much of their set was. Merchandise could be a suitable support act for some really big bands if they so choose, and with a new album penned for the end of August, we could be seeing them playing some very interesting shows sooner rather than later.

Tim Lewis