Deciding on how to define a rock band’s sound into words has long been a perplexing proposition at best. Too often, in an attempt to be clever and original, the resulting description causes more confusion than enlightenment.

Take the case of Northern California’s Merit Parcel. In their press release, they describe their sound as equal parts Guthrie attitude and Cursive style.

The Guthrie in question is Arlo, son of Woody, performer at the original Woodstock — the quintessential hippie best known for “Alice’s Restaurant” that is still played on numerous radio stations every Thanksgiving 50-plus years after its release.

Cursive is the post-hardcore band from Nebraska who uses their music as a vehicle to get a message across — offering up sugar and venom, often in the same song.

For once it rings true: Merit Parcel delivers the scrawling sound of Arlo Guthrie fronting Cursive.

If that combination interests you, check out how it translates live. They’ll be performing Thursday, July 25 from 7-9 p.m. at 40 Taps, 337 S.W. Emigrant Ave., Pendleton. There is no cover charge.

Boomers who are well-versed in the music of Arlo Guthrie might have a hard time hearing that voice with such intense music. Folks, Shawn Hill’s voice doesn’t simply sound similar to that of Guthrie, it sounds exactly the same. And it’s obvious that Merit Parcel not only notes the resemblance but also embraces it.

They are touring in support of their latest release, “Out for Delivery,” on 4th Corner Music.

Most of the music is performed on acoustic instruments. Don’t let that fool you — in the proper hands, acoustic instruments can be just as “heavy” as their electric counterparts. Merit Parcel can be soft and sweet or totally in-your-face, yes, even within the same track.

Nine out of the 10 tracks are pretty straightforward. The “Encore” track, nine, is something entirely different that will largely rest with individuals to interpret for themselves. There are a few lyrics, but the majority of the 6:17 track is sound clips of quotes from people as disparate as John F. Kennedy and Timothy Leary. One might even call it a Public Service Announcement.

Attend the show at 40 Taps and see if you can come up with a better description of this unique collection of individuals with one hell of a sax player.

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A retired educator, Johnny Vinyl spends his days with Lucifer, a 9-year-old German shepherd, reading and riding the vibe. His column, Ride the vibe, focuses on entertainment. Contact him via tmalgesini@eastoregonian.com

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