50 Song Memoir, Barbican, review – an enchanting night with one of pop’s greatest oddballs

“I usually hate writing autobiograpical songs, but autobiography need not be the same thing as truth,” he claimed early on, and yet these songs seemed at times agonisingly personal, with references to his “flaky” Beatnik mother, her succession of “jerk” boyfriends, and an itinerant childhood which took him to Hawaii, Vermont and Boston. Between songs, he traded witheringly dry one liners (“yes, I was young once”, “this is my contribution to the teenage lament genre”) suffused with additional candour about his life.

While there were a few trivial misses, such as closer Dreaming in Tetris, the overall song quality was remarkably high; the magnificent Foxx and I was a clear highlight, with Merritt sounding like Morrissey singing the Human League.

Merritt has a history with marathon collections; his 1999 album 69 Love Songs is a three-volume revue which was lauded as one of the best releases of that decade. He simply doesn’t write many misses.


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