The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina – Act 3
The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina is a trio based out of the New York City area and led by singer/songwriter/guitar player Ryan Shivdasani. The band has altered their lineup since the recording of this full length, but there’s little question listening to Act 3’s thirteen cuts that nothing will change about Shivdasani’s creative vision for the band’s music. It isn’t easily classifiable. It’s close to say that Shivdasani’s musical loyalties lie with terse, often angular guitar driven art rock with minimal clutter and an elevated lyrical quality, but you can’t quite pin Shivdasani and the band’s songs down – they take some surprising, label defying turns along the way that makes it clear they are far more than just another power trio revolving around a central figure’s guitar work. The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina’s album Act 3 shows that there are many more acts to come for this talented songwriter and his equally talented band mates.
“Together” may seem like a relatively improbable opener thanks to its crazed pace and fiery temperament, but it becomes clear that The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina want to get Act 3 off to a fast start and there’s simply no other song on the album that would have worked as effectively in this spot. It has a strong punk rock bite and Jack Redford’s bass playing has every bit of the energy this sort of track demands. “Particle Craze” and some of the album’s later songs sound profoundly influenced by bands like Television, early Talking Heads, or Richard Hell and the Voivoids, while manifesting its own unique character. We get the first hint of his lyrical acumen with this tune, but that really emerges in full with the album’s third song. “Watched You Out My Window” tells a story in a way that few songs on Act 3 do and has great subtlety in doing so. Shivdasani’s guitar work hinges on a melody that sets the song’s overall emotional tone while the lyric doesn’t show all its cards at once.
“East of Eden” is cut from the same cloth as the album’s second song but with a much more deliberate tempo and a stronger focus on melody. There’s a balance here, however, between melody and atmospherics that’s missing from much more direct melodic efforts like the previous tune. The lyric is definitely just as strong as before and tells a very different story than “Watched You Out My Window”, but there’s every bit of the same insight into character as we enjoy with the previous song. Shivdasani and the band whip together some real menace with the song “Enemy” and it makes the same sort of deep impact we heard with the last two tracks. The chiming lilt of “Slip Away” blends country and folk influences together in a charming way that’s perfectly in keeping with what’s come before and benefits from one of Shivdasani’s best vocals.
The rhythm section really shines on the tune “Anarchy” and it has a pleasing retro sound with some flourishes along the way and a stormy ending that marks this as the band’s own. There’s a lot of great lyrical content in this track and Shivdasani delivers with more playfulness than you might expect going into it. “Blood Country” comes at you from the same place we heard with the earlier “Particle Craze” and other tunes along the way and gives us a lyric that provides listeners no comfort at all. There’s some light production touches influencing this song, like many of the others, and it makes this one particularly effective. “Wait Behind” ends Act 3 on a laid back, melodic note with a warm Shivdasani vocal. The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina will impress a lot of listeners with this release and you’ll be hard put to not find something on this album that will get under your skin and stay there. It’s one of 2018’s best releases.