Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The absolutely ideal opening paragraph to an essay about UK songwriter Merz would be a verbatim pasting of the lyrics to "The Rainbow Connection." It's the song that Kermit the Frog plucks out on his banjo, while sitting on a log in a swamp somewhere, pondering all of the big questions, or some of the big questions. He's a sensitive frog and he's exploding with dreams - though he only realizes it a bit later - of showbiz and making millions of people happy with his singing and dancing talents.
He likes where he lives, but the opportunity to make a substantial number of other people happy, just by being himself, is too overwhelming. He sings, "Have you been half asleep/And have you heard voices/I've heard them calling my name/Is this the sweet sound/That calls the young sailors/The voice might be one and the same/I've heard it too many times to ignore it/It's something that I'm supposed to be/Someday we'll find it/The rainbow connection/The lovers, the dreamers and me." It's how the song ends, but those lovers, dreamers and the inference of the person singing the loping melody are reoccurring throughout the song. They imply imperfection - those lovers and dreamers and us all mingling or being numerous - in such a way, for having to single them out means perhaps that they're a niche product of the larger conglomeration of people out there driving and talking and eating stuff. The dreamers and the lovers are forced to gaze upon elsewhere - those stars and rainbows, maybe the Milky Way and Halley's Comet when it flies by - to put themselves into the proper context.
It takes a little bit of an imagination to find a kind of utopia in the current atmosphere, even if that's just a place where thoughts are cleared and arms can hug bodies that don't belong to them in a meaningful way, void of stressors and preconditions, or disappointing postscripts. Merz brings a celestial feeling to his songs about love and friendship - almost exclusively - and it's as if he's borrowed or been inspired by the philosophies of Kermit and Jim Henson, though there are also obligatory mentions of a heart that's been damaged and in need of a replacement. Then again, there's no doubt that Kermit/ Henson went through a black period too. Without despair as an option, there's not as much substance in elation or pure joy.
Conrad Lambert, who is Merz, lets words hang heavy in the air, seeding the clouds with them almost, just daring them to hold their water. "Call Me" is a story about reaching out to a friend or a love to ask them to reach out, that the tough times don't have to be square on their shoulders and it becomes more tender when Lambert is singing it into a microphone with his wife in the control room, and us thinking that she might be hearing a song that was written for her prior to their engagement. It's speculation, but Lambert brings a person close to him, as if his Finn Brothers-like pop voice can't carry past a yard of distance. It's full of emotion and of that temperament that is of the dreamers.