The Merrymakers

Big Deal Records, 1997


REVIEW BY: George Agnos


The Merrymakers are a Swedish power pop duo, Anders Hellgren and David Myhr, that seem to love the genre so much that they have come up with an eclectic CD that almost sounds like a collection of the history of power pop. Their third CD is called Bubblegun, and that is an appropriate title since the music is very sweet and melodic, but hints that all is not sweetness and light in their universe.

The first song of the set is called "Saltwater Drinks" and it is an ultra catchy, but slightly dippy pop confection, The next song and first single "Troubled Times" is more serious and has more of a nineties feel without losing its poppiness. "Under The Light Of The Moon" sounds like a lost track from either Squeeze or Crowded House. "Monkey In The Middle" is a bittersweet Paul McCartneyesque midtempo ballad about alienation. Then "Superstar" comes in as a sarcastic Goo Goo Dolls type of rocker.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

So, in just the first five songs, you can see how the sound and mood changes. I could go on about the combinations of different influences they put on this CD, but I'll let you buy it and have fun playing name that tune. For the most part, they seem to favor seventies and eighties groups like ELO, Queen, Squeeze, and Jellyfish, but there is also a nod to older bands, as well as bands from the present.

The Jellyfish influence makes sense since Andy Sturmer from that band plays drums, co-wrote two songs, and produced several cuts for Bubblegun. In fact, one of the songs he co-wrote called "Sad" sounds so much like Jellyfish that it should be considered for inclusion on a Jellyfish greatest hits collection.

There is no doubt that the Merrymakers love pop, but they are also not above making fun of it to some extent. "I'm In...Love!" pokes fun of the "All You Need Is Love" mentality in pop music, as it is about a guy who doesn't care that he is starving and wanted by the police because he has found love. There are also some stylistic parodies such as lifting a piano part straight from the ABBA song, "Money, Money, Money", a nod to Sweden's most popular musical export.

The American release of Bubblegun includes a second CD with five songs from their debut No Sleep 'Til Famous, which made them stars in Japan but was never released in the states. The production is a little more intricate here, and the ELO and Queen influences are particularly strong, especially on the ballads "Smiling In The Sky" and "Shine Your Light On Me". The opening song "Monument Of Me" shows off their sarcastic side, and "Don't Tell Me" is a dead ringer for an early to mid-period Beatles song.

One thing is for sure, Bubblegun is a must-have CD for power pop fans, whether you are a fan of modern or retro pop. The Merrymakers are yet another Swedish band that makes classic pop. The music is well crafted, and what it lacks in originality, it makes up for it with killer hooks and a wry sensibility. This is definitely bubblegum music that is so strong, it won't lose its flavor.

Rating: A-

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© 1999 George Agnos and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Big Deal Records, and is used for informational purposes only.