or the record: Capitol Records does not dictate the “New York” rock aesthetic, whatever that may be. In an attempt to exploit this nebulous idea of a musical “scene,” they have conjured up Morningwood, a.ka. bassist Pedro Yanowitz and vocalist Chantal Claret, with the supporting help of guitarist Timo Ellis from Cibo Matto. Morningwood is the kind of band that record execs love to see because of their marketability (translation: simplicity and sex). But the resulting debut album is a mess.
While the combination of fuzz, extreme dynamics, and occasional bursts of crystal-clarity provided by Gil Norton worked quite well for the Pixies and the Foo Fighters, here all it does is highlight the lack of songwriting. At the beginning of almost every song on this album, one is found hoping that Black Francis will start yelling on the track, because when Morningwood is not screaming “THIS IS A POTENTIALLY PROFITABLE MIX OF GARAGE ROCK AND SEXUALITY! HERE ARE SOME ELECTRONIC FLOURISHES!” they’re aping the faster half of Doolittle.
What isn’t unlistenable on this album—“Everybody Rules,” “Easy,” the self-referencing, occasionally retardedly fun synth-y single “Nth Degree”—is still barely above average. For example, the first half of “Easy” sounds like Guns N Roses without the virtuosity or the hate. The second half sounds like, I’m sorry to say, more Pixies.
I could go on with the comparisons—I haven’t even mentioned No Doubt (the unrelenting stabs at melody), AC/DC (the out-of-place blues-rock touches), the Fuzztones (the non-guitar flourishes), Weezer (the frank awkwardness—oh my god, the awkwardness)—but Morningwood can’t write, sing, or play like those bands. Well, maybe they can play better than Weezer.
Honestly though, this copycatting is not a bad thing. There are a lot of great bands whose music works well because they imitate other great bands. Ninety percent of the popular musical movements today are imitations of great bands. Morningwood does a great job at imitating, and they have spirit. But their spirit does not translate well to good listening, nor does it provoke the underwear-dancing and air guitar it hopes to achieve. To prove this, I even played it for a friend’s impressionable and angst-y preteen younger sister, and it didn’t fly.
I haven’t even mentioned the lyrics. They are just plain bad, killing any kind of wood that the band might have had. “My body’s 21, but my mind is ageless,” “N-N-N-New York girls / Come on, you know you’re hot!” and “I’ll take off your clothes / Because everyone knows / You like me it shows / And you know how it goes / If you take off your clothes / See how it grows.” The latter, from the egregious Pixies rip off “Take Off Your Clothes” is an awkward scene of teenage sex, if you couldn’t guess. First of all, it tries to be sexy, but, as I’m sure you can tell, it fails miserably. Second of all, who has sex with “Monkey Gone To Heaven” in the background?
The Web site, somewhat appropriately but stupidly entitled morningwoodrocks.com, shows a NYC apartment populated by, among other things, a sketchy rumpled bed (ew), bright red oversized American Apparel underwear (double eww), a Serge Gainsbourg record (triple ewww), and (pre-emptive quadruple ewww) The Village Voice. The site, and even the music, shows a little personality and originality, but no more than what one could expect from someone who wears American Apparel underwear. With “Morningwood” across the crotch.
Like the Web site, this album is trashy and unattractive, and maybe a little bit rocking, but not much. Yes, it is a little reminiscent of the Stooges, but this is kind of like Canned and Artificially Seasoned Power, or Fun Condo. In any case, the record does not connote any signature musical values of New York; it is merely a piece of grout between the tiles of hard rock history, a faceless chunk of guitars and juvenilia and Pixies.
Reviewed by: Sam Abbott
Reviewed on: 2006-01-18