You may remember the name Yo Zushi, a British-Japanese singer-songwriter who was a leading light of the UK freak folk scene, releasing two albums between 2005 and 2007, and a third in 2015. Since which time, while still a contributing writer to the New Statesman, he’s been off the musical radar somewhat. He resurfaces now, however, as part of this piscine named duo with long-time multi-instrumentalist collaborator Ross Palmer, signed to the small independent Welsh label.
Musically, Mermaids is a stripped down, laid-back acoustic affair that gets underway with the typically languidly sung introspective end of relationship ‘Another Last Chance’ (“It died with a whimper, like a broken-down car/I know there’s no one but myself to blame… I don’t hold up the mirror to anyone but myself”), introducing drums and electric guitar with the five-minute ‘Wait and See’, sketching a scene of “open Coke cans on the dash, sunburned on the road to the real”, referencing Charlie Parker and, a song about letting go, asking “don’t you ever wanna lose control/And open up your soul?”
Returning to acoustic mode, the deceptively la la la-ing ‘Our Friend the Fascist’ switches the reference from Bird to Bruce in its attack on right wing nationalists (“He wrapped himself in a flag and picked up a cross,/Saying, “Move over, Springsteen! Here comes a new kind of boss!”) and quite possibly an allusion to the Brexit Leave campaign. Then, taking a more country approach, the slow waltzing, twangsome ‘Appetite for Destruction’ again offers an introspective perspective on emotional healing (“This heart could use some instructions/So I could figure out what part of it is broken/All it knows is destruction/Just an appetite for a love unspoken”)
A minimalist fingerpicked blues sung with world weary ennui, ‘8:32’ continues the musical references, this time to Fats Domino’s ‘My Blue Heaven’, strikes a more hopeful note about trying to put things right (“Gladness and sadness, names carved on a tree/I’ve got more honey than the bumblebee/Steel caps on my boots and a brand-new suit/I’m working my way back to you… I’m happier than I’ve ever been/There’s nothing in the world can unravel me”).
It hits the midway point with the slow acoustic strum and harmonica of ‘The Fisher King’, Zoshi’s voice and delivery calling to mind Will Oldham on another number that speaks of self-destructive tendencies (“If I ever found it/I’d build my dreams around it/How could I let your hand go? /But maybe I would lose it/And thoughtlessly refuse it/Burn out the flames and never know”).
Proceeding with the dreamy fingerpicked made-it-through themed ‘Sky Blue Heaven’ (Ray Charles getting the mention this time),it heads to the end with, first the similarly lyrically upbeat and intimate ‘There’s No More Crying’ (“There’s no more crying/It’s all been figured out/There’s no more flying on a cloud/That only rained a sea of doubt”), even if it is about accepting the end of a relationship (“I’m happy for you now/And we’re both older –/I guess we’re wiser/To what heaven will allow”). That’s followed by the country-shaded steady jog and resonating guitar notes of ‘Time Steals Away’, a hooking back up with an old friend or lover after a long rift (“Funny how time just steals away/When there’s still so much I’m dying to say/Time heals everyone”), the gorgeous title track (framed with a child’s voice and opening with hymnal-sounding choral harmonies) closing proceedings on an air of contentment (“Got Garfield slippers on my feet, I’m living and dying in waltz time/Pour whiskey sauce all over my bread pudding, read up on the news for my star sign”) in “the magic isles” and “this little nest that nestles where wild flowers bloom”. And, “if things don’t work out as you planned, no sweat, you’re not dead, you’ll always have tomorrow”.
Full of a lazy charm and gentle melodies, you’ll want to hear the mermaids singing because, as he says “It may be true that the world’s gone to Hell, but right here we’re gonna have a ball”.
Artists’ website: https://www.roseparaderecordingco.com/artists/watertown-carps
‘The Fisher King’ – official video:
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