Published Aug 26, 2014None of Merchandise's recorded output thus far has done justice to just how much of an asshole Carson Cox is on stage. That's not a slight — Cox and his band come from a world of punk antagonism, yet their records never really managed to capture that kind of discord in song. Seeing the band live, Cox's gilded croon is just as often delivered through clenched jaw as it is from a drunken smirk, a dynamic that's part of the band's charm and what's kept listeners around after 2013's meandering misstep, Totale Nite.
On After The End, Merchandise approach much more pop-oriented sounds and structures, allowing them to explore a more charismatic range of emotion that was lost on previous records to a miasma of tape hiss and formless songs. Though their unwavering embrace of pop on this record might seem antagonistic in and of itself, they still manage to sound convincingly earnest and (for the first time) fun. (4AD)