It’s difficult to write about Bruno Merz’s sparse and elegant music without making the obvious comparisons to Nick Drake. I’m not the first to point it out and I won’t be the last. But there is something in the minimalism, the delivery, the restraint and the understatement that he adopts that make it hard not to drop the D word. The lyrics have the same compressed style and purposeful simplicity nature, almost like folkloric haikus or chilled nursery rhymes and he also uses similar elemental imagery that coloured Nick’s songs.
But whereas Drake revelled in hippy meadows and the green fields of an older England, Merz instead offers a warning, one which suggests the gentlest of wake up calls, to open our eyes to the effect that we, as the human race, have on the world. He predicts rising seas, broken fields and burning skies but knows that it isn’t to late to stop the relentless march towards oblivion, if we just open our eyes to our destructive ways.
The real charm of the song is that it is rebellious in the quietest of ways, it is happy to point out and suggest rather than lead and rabble-rouse, which is perfect for the modern age and our belligerent attitudes. In a world where people seem ever more frequently turning their back on expert or academic advice, dismissive of science and show open hostility towards people who hold opposing views, maybe we need a quiet revolution, one guided by gentle reflection and subtle suggestion, one inspired by beauty rather than browbeaten by dystopian visions and chilling rhetoric.
Maybe Bruno Merz is more than just a writer of eloquent and beautiful songs, maybe he, and musicians like him, can be the inspiration we need to change our ways. Even a snowball can become an avalanche, maybe this song represents the first flakes of snow we need to build it.