May 172010

Wasn’t there a crack in a Seinfeld episode in which Jerry, I believe, said to George something to the effect of anyone who wears a sweatsuit in public for non-sports-related purposes is announcing that they’ve given up on life? I believe Natalie Merchant is the musical equivalent of that sweatsuit. I know a lot of you R.E.M. fans thought she was special when 10,000 Maniacs first hit and she was Michael Stipe‘s tour bus partner, but come on, if you’re listening to Natalie Merchant in 2010 are you announcing to the world that you’ve given up on music?

Actually, rather than pile on with negativity, as we here in the Halls of Rock Town are sometimes wont to do, let’s make an extra effort effort to find something good to say about, you know, stuff that is clearly godawful.

It is in that spirit that we embark on yet another effort to bring some positivity to our proceedings. Please spend some quality time with the video above, then — if you can — please find something nice to say about it. You’ll feel a whole lot better, I promise you.

I look forward to your comments. Just remember, if you can’t say anything nice about this video… please don’t say anything at all.


  34 Responses to “I-Give-Up Rock, or If You Can’t Say Anything Nice About…Natalie Merchant”

  1. I always thought that she was cute in that “all girls college-art school kinda way”. I liked 10kM’s Unplugged show better than any electric performance or record of theirs. When I saw them with World Party, right before they broke up, they put on a decent show.

    I didn’t know she had new material this decade (or last)

  2. I always thought of the Maniacs as a “panty-waste” version of R.E.M. I like her first solo album, Tigerlily. It’s decent. Beyond that, I just don;t know.


  3. alexmagic

    With the possible exception of the magician who first shows up at 1:05, not a single memeber of that circus looks like they’ve ever killed anyone or even considered murdering anyone/kidnapping their children.

    How many circuses can you say that about? Just one: the Natalie Merchant Traveling Circus.

    I bet you those circus animals are significantly less-abused than 99% of circus animals, too. She’s doing some progressive circus work and I say good for her!

  4. Mr. Moderator

    cher, that’s the nicest ellipse I’ve ever seen posted on Rock Town Hall!

    I’m with you on the appeal of her looks, jungleland2, and it goes without saying that this compliment was not meant to diminish her music.

  5. Mr. Moderator

    TB, watch it, man. I’m not sure everything you posted just now was nice. I say this nicely.

  6. BigSteve

    I like the colors.

    I like the way the setting and concept of the video have no discernible connection to the song. Very post-modern.

  7. she has beautiful lips.
    she seems smart and hard to push around.

  8. You know, it’s funny, I discovered another, very different posted Merchant-related clip recently. This is from the early days of 10,000 Maniacs.

    As you can see, she was doing her annoying dance even then. But still, that’s pretty nervy performance from a band not exactly known for its energy.

    Now I love R.E.M., but I strongly suspect they have a very vampiric relationship with other bands. Meaning, they give an upcoming act their approval, all but ensuring that band’s popularity and hipness, if not their actual shelf life, will be shortlived. From the dB’s to Indigo Girls and 10,000 Maniacs to Grant Lee Buffalo to Interpol, it’s the same story. If R.E.M. anoints you and you don’t break up soon after, then your future albums are probably headed to the cutout bins. There are exceptions to the rule, like Jeff Tweedy, but aspring rockers of the world: If you see Stipe or Buck hanging around backstage at one of your gigs, RUN!!

  9. Ok,

    I kinda like that song “Dust Bowl Days,” where I think the intellectualism was equaled by the emotional tug of the sentiment. “About the weather” is a snappy enough tune, and George Massenburg’s engineering on those two big 10,000 Maniacs albums is superb, as always.

  10. that is a beautiful horse.

  11. hrrundivbakshi

    I appreciate the fact that her record label was willing to throw a huge pile of money at the video production crew, despite the fact that her popularity was in serious question by 1999.

    Oh, wait — I just said something nice about her record company, didn’t I?

    I like the strangely erotic sexy-girl-on-a-horse vibe she gives off, though it makes me wonder if I’m weirder than I already think I am.

    In general, there’s a lot of positivity on display here, and I’m down with — I mean up with — that.

  12. hrrundivbakshi

    I meant “up for” that. Sorry, I’m still reeling from that Dio tribute demo.

  13. I only like Alex’s image of the Cruelty-Free Circus run by Kind and Generous carneys.

    Her newest song pops up occasionally on my Music Choice channel and it has a natural-sounding reggae groove.
    The version I hear (and my link isn’t the same one, unfortunately) has a rasta toasting section which improves on Merchant’s vocal a great deal.

  14. I suspect that she is very nice to animals.

    I base this on a story I heard about her pitching a fit, all diva like, because she couldn’t bring her little dog into a hotel in NYC.

  15. Nice colors. Nice wagon.

  16. I also suspect that she is very virtuous because the subject matter of the songs on the breakthrough 10,000 Maniacs album (the only thing of hers that I’m familiar with) makes up a laundry list of things that you are probably not doing right.

    I forget the exact titles but they were something like: Don’t Beat Your Kids, Stop Drinking So Much, Quit Littering, Smoking Is Bad For You, The Weather Sucks, Stop Fighting, Stand Up Straight, etc, etc.

  17. misterioso

    The unicycle rider didn’t fall. That’s kind of nice.

  18. dbuskirk

    I was a fan of the first couple indie records, found her a bit insufferable later. Then, about a decade ago I saw some video where I found her distractingly voluptuous and hot.

    I found it…

  19. hrrundivbakshi

    I think she and Sting would make a perfect couple!

  20. Mr. Moderator

    That’s a really sweet thought, hrrundi.

  21. bostonhistorian

    She’s not The Eagles.

  22. Ahem. I suspect she is very smart. (But I will confess that my wife and I always chuckle and say to each other when we hear her sing: “she sounds like she has a lump of pudding in her throat”…)

    That is all.

    P.S. Michael McDonald falls into this category as well…

  23. It’s actually very hard to fall off a unicycle, because no matter which way you go, you can always catch yourself.

  24. Brothers — this stuff got me laid a few times. Relax . . . do it.

  25. ladymisskirroyale

    Ms. Merchant demonstrates that she could have a second career doubling for Parker Posey.

    And she demonstrates that it’s never too late to run away to the circus.

  26. Mr. Moderator

    That’s very kind of you, ladymisskirroyale. Welcome aboard!

  27. According to the comments for this video on youtube, this is “one of the greatest songs ever written.”

  28. I like the sound of her voice not her singing style but just how her voice sounds

  29. larry

    As a twin I apppreciate seeing twins portrayed in a way that is neither satanic nor comic.

  30. misterioso

    When you watch the video with the sound muted, the song itself is entirely unobjectionable.

  31. Mr. Moderator

    That’s true, misterioso, and getting back to what bostonhistorian hinted at, I’m not sure you could say that about an Eagles video.

  32. mockcarr

    I agree with Andy. Her voice is more dulcet than most dames you hear.

  33. mockcarr

    Oh, and another positive note is that the frozen image on the imbedded video looks like Peter Cook as a clown. Which makes me think of a few humorous things Peter Cook and Dudley Moore did in the 60s, like the original quite good movie Bedazzled and their stage show Good Evening.

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