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Magma - Merci CD (album) cover

MERCI

Magma

 

Zeuhl

2.47 | 142 ratings

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Man With Hat
2 stars Six tales about death...an apt summary for this work.

When you open the CD case for this one you are greeted with some wonderful artwork and a nice little three lined "poem" about death. Underneath is the line Six Tales About Death. This filled with me with positive feelings. Everything surrounding the disc had been wonderful. (Even the simple cover art is somehow soothing, in a strange way. Of course, I knew the story of Merci and its massive downturn in quality for Magma, and in terms of the music in general. However, being a completionists I felt compelled to own this album.) And then the music started, and everything changed.

Gone is everything I love about Magma. The deranged vocals, the hard driving bass, the powerful and captivating drumming, the new sounds, and the energy. In its place...synth drums, Vander's enormous absence from the drum stool, pop influences everywhere, and English lyrics. All of these things spell disaster, IMO. However, it did have something going for it, which other Magma albums do not. It is hilarious. Unfortunately, I fear it was unintentional. The opening track is the perfect example. As soon as the vocals and fake drums begin, the laughter ensues. Not even the presence of the horns can save it. Admittedly, the weirdness scale is off the charts, but for all the wrong reasons. If this was any other group, this wouldn't be as strange. Sure, faux-discozeuhl sounds unusual, but that's only because of the supposed Zeuhl tag. (Perhaps if it was sung in Kobaian it would have gained some points!) At any rate, the humor is really the only plus (unless you want to annoy people, although the good side of Magma may be able to accomplish that feat as well), but I fear that may fade over time. Similarly, the terrible Do The Music and the flat I Must Return, keep the main points of the opener, without the humor, and honestly, without the ounce of enjoyment Call From The Dark may give. To be fair, I Must Return has a hard rockin' backbone, which is somewhat of a plus, in a way, sort of. (In short, Do The Music is easily the worst song in Magma's catalogue, especially if we are coming from a prog standpoint.)

However! Not everything on this album is a train wreck. Otis (both parts) is fairly enjoyable. A nice bassline (although nothing really Zeuhlish about it), and a strong Vander vocal performance punctuate a tune that could actually have your toes a-tappin' and head a-bobbin'. The Night We Died is quite a strong tune, ending the album in a fairly melancholic way, with an excellent vocal trio. But, the main attraction here is the absolutely wonderful Elephas Levi. A sprawling song that is as close to old Magma as this album can get, with wonderful minimalism influence. A bed of percussive sounds flows underneath vocals, and piano, that have nothing in common with banal influences of the beginning songs. Atmospheric, floating, haunting ...excellent. Unfortunately, that's truly the only reason someone would need to own this album.

All in all, this is one hell of a misstep in the Magma discog. Really, it is quite confusing. This really suffers without Vander's drumming, and with the English lyrics. I can understand them wanting to bring in other influences and do something different, but why replace the best part of Magma (aside from the very strong songwriting [which really isn't here either]) with drums that don't even sound like they are trying to be drums? And when you want to have actual drums, why bring in another drummer? And at least put in the effort to write in a language that you made up! But, this issues aside, there are a few good (read: enjoyable) moments, and one excellent moment. For this, I'll rate Merci two stars. For fans of Magma, and nothing more. Please, start elsewhere in the Magma discography.

Man With Hat | 2/5 |

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