CD Review

MeridieM - "Distant Thunder: A Goth Opera"

By Marcus Pan

Distant ThunderHey, if the stoners can have Pink Floyd's The Wall and the metalheads can have Iron Maiden's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. If the hippies can have all of their Zappa shit and their Pinball Wizards - well then where's our story-in-music? Enter MeridieM and their Goth Opera, Distant Thunder. Finally, here is our story-in-music. Or is it?

MeridieM is made up of Lucas, Kat and mixed by David Farrell. It comes out of the hauntingly appropriate Cajun country of New Orleans - city of the last Convergence festival. There, in the French Quarter, the goths and the punks are moments from war. The story provided on the jacket and on their website provides no information as to why - but we'll go with this. The punks and the goths in New Orleans' French Quarter are at war and, as is expected in rock operas, Lukas steps up to take the lead of the goths. The punks and goths battle it out in song throughout the city until at the end Lukas brings them all together "in the Distant Thunder."

Now musically, the CD is very good. A wide range of musical styles are tried, from old-school punk to rock-centric ballads and near-poetic love songs. Lyrically, the CD makes no sense whatsoever - that is, until you link it up with the story of Lukas, Spaz and the other New Orleans children of the night (probably a damn good thing they put the story's summary on the CD jacket). At that point it makes plenty of sense - angsty, cheezy, bleeding-black starving artist sense. Are all rock operas cheezy? Yes…of course they are. And through the combination of juvenile lyrics (where appropriate), blaring I-Am-God guitar solos and a touch of garage sounding under-par production, they achieve this grandly.

Now before you go off complaining that my use of the term "cheezy" is detrimental or insulting, allow me to explain. For a rock opera of any sort you need the cheeze. I ask you - would Joseph have been as cool with a regular coat? Would Tommy have been as much a wizard if he could see? Would the Time Warp have been as much fun without the plastic shades? Would The Wall have been as strong if it wasn't laid one brick at a time? The cheeze is a necessity for any good rock opera or musically-inclined story. This type of medium needs the stereotypes to provide a story that can be related to by a large audience. It needs to express itself with as many clichés as it can muster because if not for these clichés the audience it was after in the first place would be lost. In our subculture we express our loneliness, beauty of the dark and angst in our music. So in a rock opera that was to appeal to our culture those same feelings must be there - and to such an extent that it borders on comical cheeze. I've talked about the cheeziness of other things - books, other albums - and done so in a bad way. But in the case of this review, my discussion of MeridieM's cheeze is a good thing. Cheeze may not be appropriate in the latest industrial release out of Germany, but it is a pre-requisite for the musical medium that MeridieM is trying to share.

With that out of the way we can go on to discuss some of Distant Thunder's highlight tracks. We're going to jump around a bit. We meet our first character on track 2 in Put Out the Dream, as Jason sings to his baby daughter. This is a poetic piece that concentrates on living for someone else, i.e. "I've got a baby girl and I know she needs me." If Jason didn't have someone else relying on him, he'd probably search out the tallest building and this would be the shortest opera in history. "I never expected life to treat me right and hold my hand." Life will never hold your hand - but a daughter could. I can associate.

Now we jump ahead - on track 4, Here Comes Juliet, the first round of goths meet up in the cemetery and along comes the namesake of this track, Juliet. A nasty, rude, trashy girl. Not someone you'd want to bring home to mama. I highlight this track because Here Comes Juliet is such a fun song to listen to with its bouncing bass and gutter-punk harmonies. Jump ahead to later that night. The punk band at the Triple Six in the French Quarter play their song We're Disrespectful and begin the unrest that puts the punks and the goths against each other. I really enjoy this song - it's raw, energetic and rude with dirty guitars and a male banshee for a vocalist. We'll allow the rest of the tracks to lie comfortably in obscurity until you pick this one up of your own accord.

A lot of us have a few of the aforementioned rock operas appeal to us on some level. I've enjoyed The Wall and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son in my youth and still do if the mood is right today. I've even watched Jesus Christ Superstar not very long ago at Kim's - the day after my bachelor party as a matter of fact. Now, however, we have our own story ripe with fun clichés and comical cheeze specific to our culture with MeridieM's Distant Thunder. Oh, and hey, bonus! The music's good too!

Distant ThunderAn Alternate View by JohnnyB:
Personally, I think we're fucked in any hopes of getting a true "Gothpera." The Crow was our opus magnum.

Now there's MeridieM's Distant Thunder - A Goth Opera. It took a while, but it's growing on me a bit. It's still Romeo and Juliet (a la West Side Story) as written by Pink Floyd and sung by a David Bowie clone - it's too "Pop" to be Gothic, except for the lyrics. Okay on it's own musical qualities, it falls short of being truly "Gothic."

I think if I was one of those "I wanna be just like Marilyn Manson when he grows up," "Goth's a cool fad" type of young kids, it would appeal to me because of the close-to-Pop/Rock sound (in some cases it almost shamelessly imitates Pink Floyd's The Wall) and the talk about the clothes.

It's not dark and somber enough, or industrial enough to be Goth. But it may not be written for us, meaning older Goths like you and I, comfortable with what they are. I see an encouraging "you're okay if you feel this way" message to those young kids who didn't fit in because they were goth but didn't know it yet.

I always figured there were two types of people like that; one that moved to the form because of the music, or as a form of rebellion - those that molded themselves to fit the image and then there were those who had a gothic heart or mindset, dark and somber, and gravitated towards what let them show it externally. It's to those youngsters, still searching for their own identity, that the message is directed.

Despite the music, the message alone should make the album worth keeping in a Goth repertoire.

Contact Information:
Post: Rage 1 Records, 828 Royal St. #289, New Orleans, LA, 70116