Welcome to another installment of The Unquiet Grave. Take a gander at the first column to get a sense of this heading’s purview, and check out some kick-ass Corpus Delicti tunes while yr at it. This time out, a closer look at goth’s most accomplished Sisters of Mercy clones, The Merry Thoughts.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does goth rock. in 1993, three years after the release of Vision Thing, the backcombed and emaciated masses were hungering for more flanged guitar, black leather and fog machines. With Eldritch nowhere to be found, a German band who’d been accomplishing very little since the mid-80s leaped into the fray, hoisting high the banner of sardonic, pentatonic, and utterly bastard groovy goth.
Not content with copying Eldritch’s voice so perfectly that four out of five winklepickered dancers can’t tell the difference, or also giving his drum machine a goofy name and band member status, or also covering another song from The Stooges’ debut album (the Sisters did “1969”, the Thoughts “I Wanna Be Your Dog”), or even adopting an equally Lovecraftian moniker, Merry Thoughts front man Marvin Arkham went so far as to mimic ol’ Andrew’s lyrical fascination with fin de siècle Americana, exemplified on 1993 debut single “Second Generation”. Hailing from Germany, his quips in English aren’t quite as pithy as the original model’s, but Lord knows Eldritch got a fair bit of mileage out of his strategic deployment of Teutonic turns of phrase, and mein Deutsch ist nicht gut genug to tell how well the German parts of “Marian” hold up. I suppose turn about is fair play in this case.
Second single “Pale Empress” refined the template even further. A perfectly paced club anthem, it’s impossible not to love a track which meets all the hallmarks of the genre so on the nose (cracking B-side “House Of Rain” does a great job of approximating “Temple” era lo-fi Sisters).
The Thoughts’ first LP Millennium Done I: Empire Songs (“empire down”?) more or less lives up to the promise of its two singles, and showed Arkham & co. to be just as adept at mimicking the Sisters’ slower, more grinding moments: “Stars” recalls “Valentine” or even Eldritch’s gut-wrenching take on “Emma”.
Second LP and final release Psychocult actually shows The Merry Thoughts moving away from being full-bore Sisters clones and developing a certain sound and swagger of their own. While Arkham’s vocals remain the same carbon-copy of Eldritch’s, some more developed keyboard instrumentation and the odd hint-o-techno beat helps to lend the tracks no small part of character. The title track and “Chant” are both excellently composed, with big, booming choruses, and there’s even a cover of a Depeche Mode deep cut, “The Sun & The Rainfall” for good measure. Genre aficionados should find a good deal to enjoy on Psychocult.
There have been some recent rumours of a Merry Thoughts reunion and new LP, though I remain skeptical. After all, what better way to continue to pay homage to the Sisters than by stringing your fanbase along with false hope of a new album?
these just make me want to hear sisters of mercy. i find the same with many remixes and covers. a legit update must eclipse the original.
i know this is an old article but i wanted to add some stuff. the merry thoughts, beyond being the best sisters clone i ever heard, were actually reaching beyond that one note kind of tribute. andrew eldritch’s vocal delivery was james ray through and through (see the sisterhood – gift) so i actually rate marvin ark ham’s delivery as the same. speaking of the sisterhood and james ray in 1993 james ray gangland released an album called ‘third generation’. tmt’s ‘second generation’ is in reference to this.
so anyhow my point is that the merry thoughts were a james ray inspired band as an andrew eldritch one, though certainly uncle andy’s shadow looms larger.
I agree with you. A shame that the Merry Thoughts disbanded. On the note of James Ray, he called Andrew Eldritch a liar and a cheat, but never said why.
I agree with you. I am saddened that the band no longer exists. James Ray also said that Andrew Eldritch was a liar and a cheat, but never said whyIn an interesting aside, James Ray would later go on to release several albums through Eldritch’s label Merciful Release and would eventually note on the subject of Eldritch;
“He’s a liar, he’s a cheat, he’s fucking useless.”
(Mercer, M. Gothic Rock, Pegasus Publishing, 1992)
A brilliant band, though I wish we could hear their early demos and the album that was finished in 2011 but never released. I think that Marvin’s skill as a lyricist is top notch (though of a completely different style than Eldritch’s). The poetry in songs like House of Rain, Glory Boys, Boy Sinister and Low Violet is so emotional that it’s a wonder that he can even sing the words.
You need to get a life!
This is still one of the best German goth bands and I rate them up there with Love Like Blood, and Oomph! Garden of Delight and Diary of Dreams. I would love to see a Merry Thoughts reunion, we wait with baited breath! I wonder what Marvin Arkham is doing these days
Arkham is doing the same thing as Eldritch as they are one and the same person……
No they are not the same person! Andrew Eldritch is British, and Marvin Arkham is German. And
Marvin Arkham’s real name is Dirk Onnertz, it’s a matter of public record!
I agree. No chance in hell that Andrew was not involved here. I definately think there is a story to be told, which is still unknown to the great majority. My theory is that there might be two different persons involved, Andrew + another guy ”Marvin Arkham” – the latter probably hooked up with Andrew during his time in Germany/Hamburg. I suppose Marvin was a ”die hard Sister fan” who sought up Andrew and since the latter was very fond of Germany, there was chemistry. This Marvin Arkham performed on some of the live shows and even if his voice is similar to that of Andrew, it does not fully match and neither with the vocals on the Merry thoughts albums. It is still possible that this other person (who is not Andrew) performed on some of the songs (”Will you”, as an example)
If you listen to some tracks it’s definately Andrew: Glory boys + Low Violet + Second generation. It’s not that every guy arround has a voice similar to that of Andrew. His voice is unique. I also don’t buy the story that it is James Ray who does ”Giving ground” on the Sisterhood. Probably just made up because of the fact that Andrew, during the period, was under the contract of WEA.
If Andrew was not the same person as Marvin Arkham – why did not this guy record any TSOM cover? It would otherwise have been a complete no brainer. In summary, in my opinion The Merry thoughts are Andrew at his best. Many of the songs as Pale Empress, Boy Sinister, Flow, are actually superior to TSOM. Even though I am a great fan of the latter.
The Merry Thoughts – Second Generation (1993, White …
Lyrics By [Uncredited] – Dirk Onnertz; Music By [Uncredited] – Carsten Mainz (tracks: 4), Dirk Onnertz (tracks: 1, 2, 3) Notes. Exists also with black printed cd label with different barcode J-Card Case. C+P 1993. Barcode and Other Identifiers. Barcode: 4013859260187Label Code: 6832
Offer Count: 3
It says Dirk Onnertz alias is Marvin Arkham
Not much information about this alleged ”Dirk Onnertz” on the internet. Maybe it is after all just another pseudo. of Andrew Eldritch… Now if there ever was a Dirk Onnertz, strange that this Dirk Onnertz has not given any interview or figured in any other context. Very strange indeed. I buy that it was evidently not Andrew Eldritch who sang on the Merry Thoughts live concerts but this does not mean that Andrew it could not have been the latter who did some of the vocals on the Merry thoughts records. It is also possible that Andrew along with this other guy ”Marvin” did some of the vocals together on these records. The vocals of the Marvin guy is in the same genre and heavely inspired of Andrew but not wholly identical. But again, on the Merry thoughts records some songs sound really as it IS Andrew Eldritch who is singing. Listen to ”Glory Boys”, ”Second Generation” and ”Deep Violet”.
Many bands in the UK who were on the dole changed their names, because if they were found to be in bands with paying gigs, they would be cut off unemployment. Gary Marx real name is Mark Pearman. Andrew Eldritch’s real name is Andrew Harvey William Taylor. Look it up, fact. Ben Gunns real name is Ben Matthews. Bassist Craig Adams and guitarist Wayne Hersey refused to change their names. Andrew Eldritch was aware of the German band The Merry Thoughts and was asked in an interview what he thought of them. He didn’t like them and thought they were ripoffs. Go to the official Sisters website’s Heartland, all the interviews are there. Dirk Onnertz took the stage name for pretty much the same reason, you’re on the dole, , and your in a band with paying gigs your cut off. And The Merry Thoughts are a German band. Andrew is British.
Yes Andrew Eldritch is brittish but he is also some of a germanophile. After the breakup with the Sisters he eventually moved to Hamburg. It is not difficult to imagine that he hooked up with some musicians over there. Maybe some of these people were also fans of the Sisters. Maybe they were playing music ”inspired” by them. Maybe Andrew joined such a German ”goth-band” (Merry thoughts) and wrote some songs for them? Listen to such a songs as ”You came” and ”I say”, for example, – how can it not be Andrew who is singing here! Yes it is conjure and speculation of course but again, I would not be surprised for a second if it some day turns out to be the truth. Maybe the alleged ”collaboration” with the Merry thoughts did not end up well neither. Could also be a reason why A chosed to keep silent. It goes beyond the voice similarity but for pure artistic reasons, I believe that Andrew must have been behind some of it, since many of the Merry thoughts songs are in fact equal or even superior to the best songs of TSOM.