Steal This Song: Morningwood, “Best of Me”

Truth be told, I’m a bit shocked that the music press is rather indifferent to New York glam rockers Morningwood. I know they’re not the best band New York’s given the world, but their blend of punchy guitars, perky beats and that force of nature named Chantal Claret at the microphone strike some primal chord in me. Maybe it’s a reminder what what rock bands used to sound like, before they worried about whether they were cool enough, or if they were attracting the “right” fans. What a joke, really. Do you think Cheap Trick ever gave a fuck who was listening to their records, as long as people were buying them? Hell, no.

That’s why people refer to the music business these days as junior high school with money. Sadly, the same peer pressure rules apply to the people who write about bands. They want to be seen as cool, too (probably more so than the musicians they write about), so once a band has the perception of not being hip, the writers tend to fall in line. Case in point: a very well-known blogger told me at Lollapalooza in 2007 that they were surprised at how much they liked Silverchair’s performance, yet they the band down in their column. Oh, the price some pay for hipster credibility.

But not me. I gave that ghost up years ago, and I can’t tell you how much easier things are since I did. Of course, this might make bands reluctant to receive my stamp of approval, since it comes with a giant asterisk – Shit! He’s uncool! Wait, unless it’s cool to not care about being cool. Damn, this is hard – but I’m not high enough on the food chain yet for that to matter. Anyway…

Personally, I’ll take a band like Morningwood and a song like “Best of Me” over the more popular Paramore any day of the week. It’s brief (just a hair over three minutes), it’s catchy, it’s confident without bragging, and best of all, it’s all major keys, so there’s no unnecessary melodrama. It reminds me of Pat Benatar in her ass-kicking days (i.e. before she started her family). And you can have it for free. Dig in. And as an appetizer, here’s the video, which contains a nice callback to the band’s hilarious clip for “Sugarbaby,” which is one of my singles of the year.

To download Morningwood’s Best of Me, click here


Morningwood: Diamonds & Studs

RIYL: Pat Benatar, Garbage, Paramore

The manner in which success has eluded New York’s Morningwood (previously a quartet, now a duo) is frankly surprising. Their songs are armed to the teeth with punchy guitar riffs, and singer Chantal Claret is an absolute belter, a larger than life personality with an oversized libido to match. (Think Pat Benatar, only this time you actually have a shot at getting her in bed.) After a one-album stay with Capitol, Morningwood has elected to go the self-released route with their sophomore effort Diamonds & Studs (though MTV is assisting with the distribution), and unlike most self-made affairs, this album sounds damn good. Indeed, it’s a modern-day production with an old-school mix job, lacking the overcompression that makes most contemporary albums sound like complete and utter shit. Much like the band’s debut, a few songs stand head and shoulders above the others, namely “Sugarbaby,” which out-Paramore’s Paramore. “How You Know It’s Love,” which jumps from shuffle beat to four-on-the-floor rocker in the chorus, playfully cribs from the band’s “Nth Degree,” and the drum-heavy “That’s My Tune” has ‘club smash’ written all over it.

Strangely, as pleasant as the album sounds while it’s playing, much of it leaves no footprint once it’s gone. Case in point: “Three’s a Crowd.” Fabulous while you’re listening to it, but an hour later, it’s hard to remember how it goes. Morningwood is still putting the pieces together, but there are far worse bands that are out-selling them. Pity. (Morningwood Inc. 2009)

Morningwood MySpace page
Click to buy Diamonds & Studs from Amazon


Various Artists: New Tales to Tell: A Tribute to Love & Rockets

Say this for New Tales to Tell: A Tribute to Love & Rockets: at 18 tracks, it is one of the most thorough tribute albums we’ve seen come down the pipe in a while, possibly ever. While this makes for a longer listen than is probably necessary, it stands as a testament to Love & Rockets that so many bands – and so many different kinds of bands, at that – were eager to contribute. Black Francis does his Black Francis thing on “All in My Mind” – it should come as no surprise that the band’s 1986 breakthrough Express is the most covered album, with every song but two appearing here – and the Flaming Lips flip “Kundalini Express” inside out, downplaying the drum track and guitar while running the vocals though what sounds like an old ELO-era voice processor. Better Than Ezra, of all bands, does a straight but effective version of “So Alive,” and Chantal Claret teams up with No Doubt drummer Adrian Young to turn “Lazy” into a frisky striptease. Funny, then, that a tribute album featuring 18 songs would not include some of the band’s best-known tunes; “Haunted When the Minutes Drag,” “Yin and Yang the Flower Pot Men,” “Sweet Lover Hangover” and “Redbird” were all skipped over in favor of deep cuts, and while that’s a diehard fan’s wet dream, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher from a label standpoint. Still, it’s hard to argue with the results, which hit a lot more often than they miss. (Justice Records 2009)

New Tales to Tell MySpace page