Essential New Music: The Space Merchants’ “The Space Merchants”


This Brooklyn band refers to itself as “a country band travelling through space” or, when feeling particularly pretentious, “Johnny Cash explaining current theories in astrophysics.” The fact is that the debut from this motley crew—members include the drummer from Jim Jarmusch’s Sqürl and a former X-Ray Spex cover bandmate of Brian Viglione—combines the emerging days of California’s acid-rock scene and the final days of Woodstock, when the power of rock was fighting off exhaustion, overdoses and the elements.

Roughly distorted and punctuated guitar chords, echoing melodies draped in bead curtains, and a spiraling organ all splay out for a hearty co-ed vocal frontline. Images of lip-synched Top Of The Pops performances, cruising Venice Beach and the Hollywood Hills, and horizons draped in patchouli haze dominate during the finely stratified “Where’s The Rest Of Life,” “Beatniks” and “Mainline The Sun.” Spells of lethargy are brief, but noticeable on “Reavers” and “One Thousand Years Of Boredom,” which counteract the powerful hippie vibe the majority of this album exudes.

—Kevin Stewart-Panko