If making psychedelic music relevant in 2019 sounds like an impossible dream, you need to make a point of listening to Little King and the Salamander (demos), the latest release from the one and only Merrymaker’s Orchestrina. In 14 multifaceted songs that blend smooth folk melodies with gargantuan space rock grooves, the trio bring the violent guitar experimentation of the 60’s into the 21st century, utilizing every modern weapon available to them in their quest to revive sonically provocative pop music. We start with the swarthy sway of “Hey Everybody,” and soon find ourselves immersed in the thick bass and glossy acoustic guitars that form the foundation of the album’s sound.
“I’ll Be (Kisses at Your Door),” “She’ll Do Anything” and “White Light and Lullabies” are fairly loose in their execution, but they’re just as tightly mixed as what we find in the more sharply arranged eponymous track, “What Fools We Can Be” and the fun-loving “Definitely Not My Underwear.” The critical consensus with Little King and the Salamander (demos) has generally given praise to the album’s fusion of contrasting styles in a singular disc, and I have to agree with my peers on this one. While this record is quite diverse in its experimentations, it flows together beautifully, not unlike what we’d find in a straight up concept piece.
“Thinking of You” and “Fade into the Night” are two of the more textured numbers on the entirety of the LP, but I like that the band doesn’t get hung up on the intricacies of these compositions and stays focused on the slick stylization of the string play. At a moderate volume, I think that it’s easier for us to appreciate the pop sensibilities of Little King and the Salamander (demos) than it is when we listen to the album as loudly as possible. The melodies are so soft but retain the warmth of the tube amplifiers that emit them, a touch that I believe to really make a difference in the finished product.
There’s a punk rock-influenced energy to a lot of the songs in this record, namely in more urgent tracks like “Together” and “Definitely Not My Underwear,” the latter of which has a somewhat glam-ridden, New York Dolls sort of a vibe to it. In slower songs like “I’ll Be” and “She’ll Do Anything,” the bittersweet lyricism is spiked with an angsty, irreverent attitude in the vocal that makes them so much more interesting than your typical alternative rock ballads, and the same can be said of the closing track “I Have Always Been Here” as well.
Music fans who have been looking for something different to spice up their daily soundtrack this year have a record that should be considered required listening in Little King and the Salamander (demos), and you needn’t be familiar with the iconic indie status of its composers to instantly find something to love among its 14 exciting songs. The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina garnered a tremendous amount of critical acclaim for their record Act 3, and this collection of raw demo tapes lets us get to know the band from behind the scenes and further helps us to understand why their brand of rock n’ roll is quickly becoming an unstoppable force in the American underground.