Carson Cox of Merchandise has repeatedly discussed the band’s avoidance of making music that could label them with genres, but on Merchandise’s fifth album, A Corpse Wired for Sound, the former punks make their closest call on the subject. While Merchandise maintains a heavily unique sound, A Corpse Wired for Sound shows obvious influence of moody 80s music like that of the Smiths and Depeche Mode, and even goth rock. The romantic and introspective lyrics, similar to those of their influencers, show the bands growth. A Corpse Wired for Sound proves the maturity gained even since the band’s last release in 2014. Carson Cox confidently sings openly about love and loss for his most evocative lyrics yet.

On the album’s lead single, “Lonesome Sound,” Cox sings in a drawled voice, “Where beauty dies/ her secrets lie/ but are never found/ just let me drown,” thus opening Pandora’s Box for emotionally raw songs to come. Underneath the distorted guitar, the anthemic song takes cues from The Smith’s “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.” Later on the record, “Shadow of the Truth” is reminiscent of a darker Depeche Mode with the rhythmic drum machine usage and cascading synths. “Crystal Cage” proves itself as a strong track just from how the vocals intertwine with the reverbed guitar and synths. “Right Back to the Start” adds a sharp synth hook to the emotional narrative about lost time and looking back at the past. The addition of an eerie violin part adds to the moody tone of the song. The penultimate track, “I Will Not Sleep Here” shows a stripped down side of Merchandise rarely shown. The simplified instrumentals add to the vulnerable lyrics. On A Corpse Wired for Sound, Merchandise makes strides as they further establish their sound and dig deeper with their lyrics.

–Tori Benes