merrygoround is dead by Merry Go Round
1. 同化 (Doka)
2. 失楽 (Shitsuraku)
3. 液状 (Ekijou)
4. 造形 (Zokei)
6. 君は蜜よりも甘く(Kimi wa mitsu yori mo amaku)
7. 赤い絲 (Akai ito)
8. 切断TV (Setsudan TV)
9. ザクロ色の月と狂った恋の旋律 (Zakurairo no tsuki to kurutta koi no senritsu)
11. CHEMICAL CANDY SHOW CASE
13. XX体質 (xxTaitshitsu)
14. 毒蟲 (Dokumushi)
15. 桜の満開の木下で (Sakura no mankita no shita de)
16. SUICIDE DANCE
Ladies gentlemen and gays, I present to you the most underrated band of the indies (and major, believe it or not) scene in the 90's: Merry Go Round (otherwise stylized as Merry Go Round, Merrygoround, メリーゴーランド, affectionally refered to as メリーゴ/merigo by japanese fans). I'm sure the rarez queens on here would beg to differ and probably offer up some other band with a bunch of apostrophes and misspent words in their title because Merry Go Round are too popular but NO. They have a point, as anyone worth their weight in Nagoya kei history knows the impact of Merry Go Round on the local scene at the time, but the lasting influence of Merry Go Round isn't as widely known. Here I've come, along with the aid of this thread to help decode the mystery that is Merry Go Round through their swan song best-of release from 2003, merry go round is dead. There's no better time to go into this, as gibkiy gibkiy gibkiy marked the return of Kazuma to the scene, and they are hot off the heels of a fairly large country-wide tour and now a 3man series of lives with DALLE and 101A. Gibkiy continue onward with merigo's legacy of avantgarde experimentation, pushing the boundaries of not only the visual kei scene, but the underground alt-rock scene. Merry Go Round's cult following continues onward long after their eventual demise, over 20 years after they had started in '91—they even have a fan-run “memorial site” in their honour, still updated to this day. At the party zoo event lives, there's been merigo respect sessions, with MUCC members playing in them. Their releases catch a decent value on the secondary market, with their best-of albums easily catching upwards of 8000 yen.
Something's in the water with these guys, and I don't think its any coincidence they are still mentioned in the same breath with the major label successes of the Nagoya scene despite their relative obscurity outside of the scene: Laputa, ROUAGE, Merry Go Round. The short answer is that they were legendary in every sense of the word; everything merigo did was fucking iconic. There was a sense of genuine darkness about the band, no one was flashing around their goth clothes for the chicks only to switch it up afterward when they got bored. The twitter thread was quite helpful, as they pinned a lot of influence to Merry Go Round that I didn't otherwise know. They claim that Kyo (DEG) and Daisuke (Kagerou) were quite influenced by Kazuma, and while I don't have anything to back this up, I totally believe it. Kiyoharu and his very obvious influence on like...99% of visual kei aside, Kazuma's edgy antics have clearly played a role on Kyo. He was the first person to rock the metal face piercings-all-over look, which Kyo later donned in the 2000's, coming to a fever pitch in the 2010's with band guys literally filling their faces with as many piercings as possible. Of more importance is the inheritance of a uniquely independent and unique being that merigo embodied; they were so unique that even the japanese source had to struggle from talking in hyperbole. Honestly, I'd argue that Kyo's closest comparison point is Kazuma, in terms of avantgarde leanings and their individualist persona that was cultivated through their almost outsider leaning art. They also pin Merry Go Round as the prototype for menhera love songs, whatever the fuck that means; my understanding of Kazuma's lyrics are limited but there's a lot of sex...s&m...sex...S&M! Of equal importance was this new influence of a darker perspective--taking into consideration the misfortunes of the world and informing one's art, which encapsulated a lot of themes which would later pop up in kotekei and the boom of menhera in the 2010s. Kazuma alone is not to credit for this, but along with the early Nagoya's kei scene's influence in ushering in this new era of ~yami~, he made a decent impact on the darker bands that would follow in later years.
Throughout their history, even through lineup changes, their brooding energy stayed constant and so did their experimental, post-punk edge. While firmly rooted in the history of the scene, they sounded equally distant and removed from the scene. Whereas other bands mixed in sharp melody and pop sensibilities to the doom and gloom of the time, Merry Go Round nixed conventional song structure altogether. They had the melancholy down pat, but they added an almost relentless sense of repetition. Songs wouldn't move much as compositions, focusing on a guitar motif or rhythm and pushing it to the desired running length. It's a sound that is hard to describe without listening to their songs, but also a sound that varies with time. Notable is a 1997 cover of Bauhaus's “Hair of The Dog”, in which the spacey guitar lead of the original is turned into a fast-flicking, treble-y riff; the rhythm replaced with a syncopated drum beat. Kazuma sings coldly, screaming and cackles hysterically, pushing the frantic energy of the song into maniacal heights. The end result is so fucking merigo that I'd have a hard time believing this wasn't the band's own composition. This speaks to the quality of the re-arrangement of the cover but also their brilliance, in turning the frantic yet restrained energy of the original into a fully realized, uniquely dark visual kei song. The guitar tone and technique are a definite echo of the indies sound at the time, but the chord progressions dubbed over the melody of the original are totally post-punk, dour and dire. It all makes a lot more sense when hearing "Ame to muchi", which is an original composition yet it manages to sound quite close to “Hair of The Dog”. This is a perfect representation of merigo's traditional sound, equally visual and goth. Besides, when was the last time you heard a visual band cover fucking Bauhaus? These two tracks are part of their old sound before '99, which was more typical of mid 90's gloomy-kei and Nagoya bands, but as they went on things got weirder and weirder, peaking with their 2000 full length. Past then, things got a bit more sober and streamlined, with a more rock sound but were still quite distant from the third generation of Nagoya kei, which included the more goth-inclined Lamiel, kein and later Blast and deadman.
Merry Go Round - "HAIR OF THE DOG"
Bauhaus - "Hair of the Dog"
Merry Go Round - "Ame to Muchi"
Speaking of all this history, lets get into the band's tea. merry go round is messy to say the least, and there's not much I have to add that isn't already on the net, so I'll offer the interesting points. Merry Go Round's history is marked with stuff that doesn't happen at all anymore, including massive lineup changes, being together for 10+ years (believe it or not), falling in and out of major label contracts and a weird discography, with only 1 full length album and a scattering of minis and singles to count for the fajillion years Merry Go Round was a thing. Vocalist Kazuma and ex-Laputa guitarist Hideno were pretty much the only constant in the band's recording history, excluding their pre-demo years. Before '95 was probably a whirlwind, they cycled through 2 guitars, 2 bassists and a drum over the course of 4 or so years, with only recorded 1 demo (before their official demo) to show for their early years. None of the members at that time went onto any other bands after their time in merigo and so what went on in those years is entirely unknown, but totally interesting. I'd like to think the band was a volatile group of goths going around Nagoya with violence (a-la X-Japan), crappy music, drugs and S&M orgies but we might never know. The reality of the situation is likely a lot more boring, with Kazuma refusing to let go of his little project despite the financial and personal difficulties that come with trying to get a band going, especially considering it was before visual kei's mainstream popularity in Japan. They found stability after 1995, with their first main lineup's output stretching from '95-'98 before losing their only other composer, the now deceased Junna and drummer Kyo. Hideno then became the sole composer of the band's music, and whether for his personal taste or just overall circumstances, shit got very dark, very quickly. Song lengths could be brief, with weird minute-long voice solos or drag on for seven, eight minutes at a time with their typically minimal instrumentation, leaving Kazuma's croon to fill in the spaces. This was hinted at in their earlier days, as S featured the 12 minute monster “Dokumushi”, one the creepiest songs ever put to tape, which was composed by none other than Hideno. Catchy choruses became even more sparse, as songs were more about mood than melody. The jazz and industrial influence became stronger, with an alt-rock vibe creeping up on them in the later years, replacing the remnants of their old school style.
Basically, as an album, merry go round is dead is not much more than an afterthought. There's actual little reason to purchase the album, as its limited 1200 press has ascended it to god rare status and it doesn't show up often or for anything remotely cheap and all the tracks have been released before. That said, most of the stuff from their marder suitcase/Fuji days are impossible to find now. Nothing was done with purpose in terms of arrangement, inclusion of tracks, etc. The track list is mostly chunked from the original releases, with little integration. The first chunk was their new stuff from 2003, then most of the tracks from the 1999 singles, with only 2 other b-sides that went to their 1999 best-of REDDISH COLLECTORS NO DEAD ARTIST. There's a lot of overlap between these compilations, and REDDISH... is a weird enough album that it deserves its own article. There's a lot of repetition in their discography, but also a lot of remixes/re-recordings and little tracks thrown in as interludes. Their first full length is also entirely absent absent here, as well as pretty much anything during their second lineup. The only song unique to merry go round is dead was "NARCISSE", which was later thrown into a marder suitcase V.A comp. The last chunk was a throwback to their older days, with the whole IMPERIAL DRUGS single and “xxTaishitsu” thrown in for whatever reason, as it is the only track solely composed by Junna. The classic “Sakura no mankita no shita de” appears as well, with “Dokumushi” cut down to a slightly more palatable 4 minutes. “SUICIDE DANCE” is the only song composed by Kazuma and ends the album as a throwback to their eaaaaarly days, as the song has been around in some way since their first unofficial demo in the early 90's. In terms of the tracklist contribution, I'd chalk it to who owned the rights for the tracks as well as aesthetic representation. Even if the band wanted to include their stuff from the semi-major days, my guess is that they didn't have the rights to those songs, which were conveniently mostly Junna compositions. So whether by design or coincidentally, it's mostly Hideno composed, reflecting the musical design of the band from 1999-2004.
On to the music itself, it is spectacular to say the least. No matter how much you prime yourself to hear something of comparative style to other artists, or rather the inverse—expecting to hear something completely alien, the experience itself is neither. Tracks 1-6 were their post-2001 output, a mix of melancholy ballads and crunching alternative rock numbers. The sense of theatrics is mostly toned down for a primal rock energy. “Shitsuraku” is straight up aie chords played for seven minutes on end with what sounds like Kazuma on xanax. He takes the track towards a lullaby, threatening to pierce that threshold and roar yet it never approaches those heights. “Zokei” is among the best of the new material, with a percussive rhythm accented by dissonant guitar chords and Kazuma totally riding the track with vocals oozing sensuality. These tracks are a perfect example of merigo's penchant for repetition, as there are few diversions from the introductory chords and melodies. Hideno overlays a new motif or two to keep the songs from being mind numbingly repetitive, and it works to keep interest but otherwise keep the tracks hypnotic. “Narcisse” and “Kimi wa mitsu yori mo amaku” are shocking in that they're almost—joyful—ballads, not creepy or brooding (spare the intro to “Kimi...”) and a departure from anything they had done in the past. These were a look into merigo's possible future, a fascinating look at what could have been. I'm not sure it would have been a future we'd have wanted, but thankfully gibkiy gibkiy gibkiy came up 10 years later and swooped up the remnants of Merry Go Round's old craziness instead of letting this acoustic cheese bloom. That said, I like them in the context of the album's melange of mess.
Merry Go Round - "Zokei"
Then begins the older output (this album goes in reverse chronological order, basically, LOL), the more essential or classic Merry Go Round songs. “Akai ito” is the song that more or less got me hooked on art kei (I was already a Diaura stan, #sorrynotsorry), as the song was so...un-visual. It is a naked and haunting ballad, and it struck me as visual kei style vocals over a sped up Low or Codeine song. The guitar line had the dissonant feel of a darkened post-rock or midwest emo track, and I'm a huge fan of all of that so its safe so say I was shaking in my boots. To this day, it is my favourite Merry Go Round track and I literally melt the second I hear those opening chords. This haunting sound is echoed by “Zakuroiro no tsuki to kurutta koi”, which is in the same stylistic vein but a more drudgy, spacey number. Kazuma kills both with his vocals, dipping in and out of vocal acrobatics, occasionally pushing the border between fascinating and gratuitous but never overstepping his bounds. The template for these ballads is toward the closing of the album, with Merry Go Round's classic “Sakura no mankita no shita de”, which more or less birthed true emo balladry. It is covered in sessions to this day, and from merigo, it is the one track that is remembered from non-fans and fans alike as an iconic bit of Nagoya kei history. “Setsudan TV”, “Beast” and “FISH” are the flipside to the traditional melancholy rock balladry, as the band step into dub, industrial and jazz sounds. “Setsudan TV” is absolutely insane, with a thumping, urgent instrumental, not too far off from a cyberpunk anime soundtrack. Kazuma's vocals are...[redacted]. It's the peak of madness for the album and a track so bizarre it warrants a listen, just for the shock experience. “CHEMICAL CANDY SHOWCASE” is a look into merigo's traditional sound, as its a straightforward, punky rock piece.
Merry Go Round - "Akai ito"
From the traditional sound to the straight up old school, “xxTaishitsu” brings the vintage heat, as it is one of the older tracks. The looping/glitching vocals from “Setsudan TV” are here in a lower dosage, contributing to the intensely psychedelic vibe of the track. The track comes to a climax with a bizarrely spaced and composed solo, in a much higher pitched voicing than the rest of the track; it's orgasmic to say the least. If you're not air guitar-ing to it, then what kind of a wannabe guitar player are you? From then on comes “Dokumushi”, unfairly cut down from its originally wonderfully messy glory. In fact, the horrific and disturbing effect of the original is almost entirely lost in this 5 minute edit, as the song is made all the more creepy for how long it goes on for. The album ends with “SUICIDE DANCE”, an otherwise unremarkable song for how much it resembles other, better merigo hit songs; however, credit is due as this was the template for pretty much all of Merry Go Round.
Merry Go Round - "Dokumushi" (Live)
And so the snake swallows its tail, merry go round is dead. Hideno has pretty much fallen off the face of the earth, and that's a real shame. Otherwise, Kazuma's contribution in gibkiy gibkiy gibkiy keep the spirit of the old school alive, and that is testament to the strength of the Nagoya scene. There is nowhere else in vk, aside from the legends of the late 80's-early 90's that musicians have remained active for so long. Peers play with up and coming musicians along with their influences, producing new and dark sounds, equally indebted to the past as they are to the future. Here's to our darkened future, and the merry go round which will spin eternally.
gibkiy gibkiy gibkiy trailer
please note that this is mostly limited to english sources, the gaps in my knowledge could possibly be filled by japanese sources or defunct english pages. please let me know of other additions and translations if possible, do it for the oldies!!!
1.) this awesome nagoya kei intro thread (JP)
2.) western news sources:
jame (s/o to the girl who upped the band bio in 2010, it was of great help)
junna memorial blogs compiled on shattered tranquility
3.) memorial site
4.) yunisan (song credits, lineup information, press numbers)