Scott Merritt,
The Detour Home
(MapleMusic/MCA, 2002)

Back in the early-1980s Scott Merritt made a name for himself in the Toronto area with his far too infrequent club dates and his against-the-grain approach to music. No new waver Wham! wannabe or hair-obsessed hard-rocker, Scott preferred to merge musical styles with a joyful recklessness that won him a devoted following among the art/folk hipsters of the Queen Street scene. He also released an understated, six-minute-long music video for "Transistor" from his independently produced debut album Serious Interference. The video managed to overcome its refusal to fit into any pop format and actually got airplay.

But then, after getting a major label deal, somehow the idiosyncratic magic of that first album got lost in the studio sessions for his 1986 sophomore release, Gravity Is Mutual. 1989 saw the release of Violet & Black and the beginning of a dozen-year drought for new Merritt music. Scott spent the time behind the boards at his own studio, producing albums for the likes of Fred Eaglesmith, Ian Tamblyn and James Gordon.

Then in 2002, a new Scott Merritt album quietly appeared. And the magic was back.

The Detour Home is a diverse, challenging and ultimately wonderful collection of songs that are pure Scott Merritt, undiluted by anyone else's production stamp. The music incorporates everything from found percussion, to glockenspiel, to fuzz guitar rock 'n' roll, to late-night contemplative atmospheres complete with crickets. And what's there in every song is Merritt's distinctive voice and those cryptic lyrics: "My henhouse rocket blastin' skinny out the keyhole, rustbucket holes in the side," from "Supply Exceeding," and "A 10-ton quarternote, dropped off a thirty-three, with a wall of dust and a chain of satellites in tow," from "Homedale Bus," and "In a dimestore with a nickel, he's a never-endin' wish, kingpinned, hobnailed dined blind, abducted by mosquitoes come back NSF," from "Thimbleful."

This is stream-of-consciousness poetry that's meant to roll over the listener. It's mood more than meaning. It's not the kind of thing that I would normally enthuse over. And yet, and yet....

In the end there's little I can say other than that I love this album and think a lot more people should give it a listen. It's a disc that proves the adage that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. So I'll stop writing here and simply say, take The Detour Home!

- Rambles
written by Gregg Thurlbeck
published 5 June 2004

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