Last year's (Strange Songs) In The Dark was a gorgeous exercise in noisy shoegazing music - the kind of record that you can put on and it consumes every crevice of your day. Brilliantly DIY and full of soul searing guitars, it was one of my favorite releases last year. Drugged Conscience were responsible that record, and also for two cassettes that preceded it (and created the buzz around that long player's release that out them onto my radar in the first place), and I was happy to get them on loan a few weeks back. One of those tapes, Terminal Jagger Jane's Addiction, is a banal and boring jaunt into a world of '90s alt rock bands that I avoided after high school, and I was disappointed - was that excellent LP just a fluke? And why do my friends have such awful taste to suggest that I listen to this? But then out of a faith in the good in other people, even (especially) strangers, I popped this S/T tape into the deck and I just smiled. These are the stairs that Merchandise used to climb up to the heights of (Strange Songs)..., these are the musical vegetables they stayed at the table to eat so they could grow into the band that made that magnificent album. There are still flirtations with the sounds of unnecessary bands from twenty years ago, but these songs are airy and personal and this time they have taken those sounds and ran with them - walls of politely distorted guitars sound like leaves blowing around their songs, with a quietly booming bass subtly urging the mass forward. The vocals are more forced than their full length, and certainly this tape lacks the indescribable breathy quality that makes that slab so infectious, but "Moving Out" modernizes SWELL MAPS superbly, and the opening minutes of "It's A Man's World" are the best sounds to cross the desert to since the third PHARAOH OVERLORD record, and morph into a wonderful proto-indie number that makes me want to pull out my WEDDING PRESENT records. The guitars control the emotion of the tape, and it's awesome to hear them in this context, knowing that MERCHANDISE took those guitars in the direction that they did. Transitional songs from a band hitting their stride, moments of confidence interspersed with innocent and hesitant steps in different directions.