His Merry Men: Kind Of Loud
- I've followed the exploits of Brisbane band of funky mischief makers His Merry Men, with half an ear for the last couple of years. The advent of their debut full-length, Kind of Loud, has got me waggling both my ears in their direction. All nine pieces of the outfit have come together for a funk / soul / reggae / surf / r'n'b / latin / jazz / pop party. Really, every one of those styles gets rocked at some point or another on this record. That in itself would be impressive in one of those not-particularly-meaningful, Guiness Book Of Records "he fitted how many wieners in his mouth??" achievemnt kind of styles. What's more exciting is that they manage to make all of it sound pretty damn good. Funk, which is their primary trade, is not a thing that can be done without a great deal of discipline and they sure have that. It's more than that though, each style they try they produce with equally convincing gusto and when solos are called for, each member of the band called upon delivers with virtuosity. His Merry Men are a party band and, as such, play much of what they do for laughs. The first half of the record lays it on thickly. Opener Pillow is also quite risque, with the band's ever-present lead vocalist Megan Crocombe putting-out (sorry) more double-entendres than an episode of The Benny Hill Show. I'm not sure that's what is meant by dirty funk, but it works pretty well. The surf/spy schlock of Super Secret Spies follows hot on its heels and it's a treat, too. The jokiness in the powerhouse funk of Rockmelon is a bit weaker and I'd maybe get a bit tired of the formula if there weren't a bunch of other things about to happen. The slow groove of N Joy is a nice change of pace and artily bridges into a pacey bit of funk pop and everything goes a bit kaleidoscopic as the band dips into another interlude, the beautiful, echoing acapella vocal harmonies of June In Tallebudgera. Single Mr. Right brings the band back to their core funking and, once again, it is tight and fantastic, but features it's own intriguing chillout of reverb soaked steel drums that slowly build, like a wave, crashing back into the funk. I could go on (and will): there's plenty more to appreciate in the fourteen meaty tracks that make up Kind Of Loud. The sparse r'n'b attitude of OP, the sweet soft rock of Sunshine, the bossa / ska mix-up of Day After Day (what a great combo). It's just very hard to get bored with His Merry Men. If I had to pick a problem with the band, it'd be with Megan Crocombe's voice. She's clearly got pipes and she's up to both the dexterity and power that the band demand of her. Just listen to her great jazz big-band, Ella Fitzgerald finish for On The Line, right at the end of the record. But, dammit, but, she's not got the beatiful timbre of Fitzgerald or, the richness of a Kylie Auldist, and it's clear His Merry Men are more than a little bit inspired by The Bamboos. Crocombe, by contrast has a nasally, thin, white girl sound, which is an affectation I'm pretty sure she picked up studying jazz at the Queensland Conservatorium. Affectation it is too, she doesn't need or have to have it. Can you tell it's been frustrating me? With Crocombe appearing just about everywhere on this record I found that a little wearing, not least because Kind Of Loud has a depth and quality that I was not expecting. All criticisms aside, if they can capitalise on what they've started here, then a band like The Bamboos, who are themselves a homegrown story of serious success, will be getting plenty of competition. His Merry Men have got something that makes me excited.
- Chris Cobcroft.