Review: Dan Melchior und das Menace – Catbirds & Cardinals

The return to university and Freshers’ Fortnight has taken up a lot of my time lately, which is why there has been a lull in activity there. I am keen to address this, so here is the next review from my increasingly formidable stack of items for review, another from Northern Spy Records: Dan Melchior und das Menace’s Catbirds & Cardinals.

This is a record I want very much to love. Indeed, the good moments outweigh the bad; the lyrics – when they can be discerned (see below) – are excellently crafted and there are many well-crafted melodies to be found hidden beneath all the fuzz and distortion. Yet for all that makes me want to keep coming back for repeated listens, there is also something that pushes me away.

“What’s the use of even (evil?) speaking if you’re buried in bad static? May as well be mute like one of those masked record clerks,” Melchior may or may not sing (I listened closely three or four times and could not work out the words here), and this is probably my biggest problem with the record. Melchior’s heavily overdriven sound does not lend itself to easy listening, which is partly the point, but there is so much in songs like Catbird (from which these lyrics were taken) and Crow Radio #2 that contains inherent threat that it feels that one unnecessary extra step into the alienation territory.

Maybe I am trying too hard to review this as a pop record, which is not (quite) what it claims to be. Melchior’s construction should be perhaps seen as a sort of artful play, an antithesis to works such as Poptastic’s The Teen-Pop-Noise Virus (a project in which carefully-crafted pop songs were transformed by way of effects into a sonic barrage) – meeting at a similar juncture from opposite directions; Melchior has created something akin to ‘pop’ from the chaos of his sludgy signature sound and, on this basis alone, given that there is much to be explored that you have to work for, this album can be said to be a success. Certainly, this is not an album you can casually exhaust.

Below, you can stream and download English Shame (which would not actually be my pick of the tracks from the album) and watch Melchior perform No Horizons/No Prescription at Scion Garage Fest 2009:


Scion Garage Fest 2009: Dan Melchior “No Horizons/No Prescription” from Scion A/V on Vimeo.

Catbirds and Cardinals is available direct from Northern Spy Records and the usual others:

Amazon UK (MP3) | US (MP3)

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