Album in Depth: Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone? by Harvey Danger

I remember when Harvey Danger was a godlike band. Weird, isn’t it? Such a low expression band being considered the most important band of the nineties, with bands like Green Day and Nirvana already existing being so much more symbolic to the nineties than any nerd with a hobby band could ever accomplish to be. I remember Sean Nelson being considered the poet of his generation.

Almost 20 years after, and we can clearly see that Harvey Danger was a boat that sank in departure. Releasing only that one song, and being famous only locally, that must have been a bitch, but that was reality. Harvey Danger is, for me, the One Hit Wonder band that defined its generation, because of the simple fact that he came, and went, was praised as hell, and then faded away into obscurity.

But why was that? Didn’t they deserve a bit more? What happened? A little background is required:

The year is 1997. Fucking Titanic, awesome MIB. Kasparov loses to a machine and Google’s domain name gets registered. GTA and Mario Kart 64 see the light of day, also Final Fantasy 7 and Star Fox 64.

Harvey Danger was a local band from Seattle. So that you can see the scope of it, the band started when Jeff Lin and Aaron Huffman simply decided to start a band, for shits and giggles. Then, they decided to bring Evan Sult, a guy to play the drums that never played the drums, and Sean Nelson to kind of sing. They played in pubs, distributed demos, the works, until a similarly unknown manager, Greg Glover, found the band and gave the band the benefit of the doubt. When they started writing songs, however, the doubt ended; mainly when Flagpole Sitta was recorded.

When their debut, “Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?” was released… not many people paid attention to it, really. It had a local fanbase, but so do I. But after Sean Nelson gave the record to a KNDD DJ (and don’t kid yourselves, when I say gave, I say money was involved, as most often than not it is), the song instantly gained momentum and started being a top requested song (Flagpole Sitta, that is).

After that album, they went into the deepest circle of management hell: acquisition and merges. What is that you ask? They recorded an album… that was shelved for over one year. The label that owned them was now, inexistent, so they couldn’t do anything about them. So, they decided to sell the album to another label, an independent one, but… they had a contract with a now inexistent label, that stopped them from releasing in any other label. Sean Nelson said that once they recorded a song and the day after, the song was no longer theirs, and they didn’t know who to complain about.

So, obviously, after that experience, they only released a third album after breaking up and reuniting 4 years after, and this time, releasing it online, free of charges (Oh, my, is this the link to their later songs? And it’s completely free? I feel like a slob, for getting music for free… I already do, but whatever). They broke up for good in 2009, after a last show.

As stated before, after a stale start, the album didn’t go farther than their no. 1 single, Flagpole Sitta, which was, and still is, a mark of the nineties. The album clocks at 42:56: pretty good runtime, with the longest song being “Problems and Bigger Ones”, with 5:41, and the shortest one being the intro “Carlotta Valdez”, with 2:44. One thing I have to address is that the last song actually has over 8 minutes, but its outro apparently is just “Carjack Fever” from the soundtrack of Fuel played backwards… which in my record, strangely, it is absent. So, with all that over with, let’s get into this gory piece of 90’s rebellion, Harvey Danger’s “Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?”!

1st track: “Carlotta Vasquez” – A punk song about the movie Vertigo and holy fuck is this song awesome. The riff is great, the guitar is awesome, the voice is great. This song is really, really good. To the most punk people, it’s like Green Day with a better vocals and a better idea in general. It’s a great punk song and should be listened to. The bass works great, the production value is great; this song is the tits.

2nd track: “Flagpole Sitta” – Already we reach Flagpole Sitta, and it should be discussed as what it is: an unoriginal great song. It’s basically a greater Green Day’s Longview; the same cynicism, the same bass line basically, the same critics, but done better, I would say. It really centers the rebellion of lack of things to rebel that the nineties really had going for it: we don’t really have anything to rebel, but we want to break free from the shackles, I guess. And it’s much better than Longview, and I really enjoy Longview. The only complaint is the slow part that although good to do a little contrast, wouldn’t be a production choice I would have made. And the lyrics are crazy good (the voices in his head are bored).

3rd track: “Wooly Muffler” – A slower song, but still with appropriate sass, but about something a bit psychotic this time… actually, a lot psychotic, being about a weird ass bad relationship. It still works as a punk song: in fact, it’s good in that regard, but… I don’t know. I wouldn’t listen to it regularly, it’s too… chaotic, I guess. It’s a good song, but… not a great song, I guess.

4th track: “Private Helicopter” – Weird good song. The lyrics are about someone who kind of wants to get back with his favorite ex-girlfriend and former best friend but has grudges and simply wants sex and… a friend, I guess. It’s a good song, filled with 90’s punk feeling, and it’s overall great, but I don’t have anything else to speak about it, I guess. Good song.

5th track: “Problems and Bigger Ones” – A ballad… it’s a good one, but I wasn’t expecting a full on ballad from 1997 punk, really. And weirdly, it’s about a relationship done right. No mopping at all: we may face problems and then bigger ones, but we’re going to surpass it. I liked it, there aren’t many ballads like this one, and the instrumentation is also really really good. Definitely a must listen.

6th track: “Jack the Lion” – Holy fuck, Harvey Danger has balls. Guess what? Old man dying. A raw song, a clean guitar, a clean sorrowful vocals, a simple beat, an old man dying… this song is brilliant. I would recommend it: screw that, this is the best song of the nineties. The whole nineties and it bothers me how much people completely overlook it. Oh my god, this song is awesome. Jack the Lion roaring his last. Just… don’t check it out if recently someone of your family deceased, since it’s a powerful song.

7th track: “Old Hat” – Back to the sillies. A pretty strong silly song at that. It comes across to me as a “Happy People” REM song done right. It’s a good song, but the singing style of Sean and the overall instrumentation is starting to wear thin; as a standalone, it’s a really good song, but after 6 tracks, I guess the surprise effect is no longer in the air. Still a good song, with a strong guitar solo and an energy filled drumming.

8th track: “Terminal Appex” – Unimpressive song. It was bound to have a filler song in the mix, but I guess I finally discovered who the main inspiration on the band was: it tries to sell as a Green Day knock off, but it’s actually way more REM. This one shows that in full colors: if it was sung by the guy from REM, it would be easily mistaken for one of theirs.

9th track: “Wrecking Ball” – I thought that “Problem and Bigger Ones” was going to be the slowest song, but then, this song comes and… let me tell you people why I think Creep doesn’t work, beside the fact that Radiohead sucks hairy balls: Creep is a depressing mother fucking song, but guess what? The rest of their material is also depressing as fuck. So, a depressing song isn’t that far out, is it? In contrast, we have Creep by Harvey Danger. It’s not a great song, but it’s a well-made song, with strings and a classic guitar approach to it, so… if you want to listen to them if they were snobbish, here’s the song.

10th track: “Radio Silence” – What the hell? Why Harvey Danger get so depressing? Two depressing songs in a row! The difference between the two is that in this one, the song goes packing energy as it goes, but it never gets to be a full-fledged fast tempo punk song: the max it gets is something near Hoobastank, and no one wants that. It’s a boring song that wears thin and I think the album deserved a better finishing note.

So, how does it all hold up? Surprisingly great. It’s actually one of the best albums I ever reviewed, and it’s definitely one of the best punk albums out there. I still have to listen to their other stuff, but, from what I can see, they deserved a lot better than the treatment that they got. All power to Harvey Danger!

Next, Backstreet’s Back, All Right!

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4 Responses to Album in Depth: Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone? by Harvey Danger

  1. Kaminomoto says:

    Somebody essentially help to make critically articles I might state.
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  2. Manatee says:

    You’re a fucking moron.

  3. cropper says:

    yeah this sucks. harvey danger weren’t hyped by any measure. soon as they got a modicum of attention the indie scene they were in turned on them and accused them of being sell outs. really hilarious that you’re accusing them of using payola to make flagpole sitta get big. with what goddamn money? they were a college indie band living in a squat (the house on the cover) together. this analysis is garbage, where have all the merrymakers gone? is an underrated emo classic and each song hits that mark extremely well, including those closer tracks you’ve trashed.

    • I didn’t accuse them of using money to make Flagpole Sitta get big, I accused them of paying radio stations to play it. Because that’s the way it goes, man. Simple as that, it’s just what happens. I researched before doing these things, in the nineties, you had to find someone to pay at least something to radio statios to get traction.

      And while I was reading you comment, I was thinking: “was the review of the album negative?”. And no, it wasn’t. I really like this album, I think the closers are not that good. Sue me.

      By the way, emo started in the eighties, died in the nineties, and made a ressurgance in the 00s. Harvey Danger is nineties, so it’s more of a “trying to be grunge” thing than an emo thing. And if the songs hits mark extremely well, they wouldn’t be a One Hit Wonder. They missed their mark in lots of these songs.

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