on 17 February 2014
I bought this CD after reading about Morphine on various websites. I thought this would be a good introduction, and sampler, for a band that seemed to have a lot of genres tagged on to them. I certainly wasn't disappointed with my purchase.
The thing about Morphine is, as I already intimated, they're hard to classify. Perhaps bands shouldn't fit in to a specific category. Music is music. If you're that way inclined, however, Morphine would break the mould and shake loose any conventional genre they're slapped with. I could try. There's that definite late '80s/early '90s alternative rock vibe going on, traces of early Indie rock, all of which is saturated with laid back jazz cool.
Morphine's line-up consists of Mark Sandman on vocals and two-string bass, Dana Colley on saxophone, and either Jerome Deupree or Billy Conway on drums. Sandman's vocals aren't going to set the world on fire, but his delivery is unmatched. He sings in such a nonchalant way that it's hard not to be charmed by him. It also makes his lyrics more believable, as they feel more like stories being told to you in a smoke filled bar than songs. The more intriguing part of Mark's contribution is his two-string bass. It adds just such a different element to the music unlike anything I've heard. Because he uses a slide to play, the sound emitted is like an odd fusion of what sounds like an electric stand-up bass played with a light dusting of country music inspiration. This comes through clearly on a song like "Pretty Face" Colley's saxophone can range from simply adding layers to a song to taking the song to the next level. The saxophone is used as a bit of filler here and there, but when Colley is given a chance to shine it's a treat to hear a roaring saxophone on the track. Deupree/Conway's drumming fits the bill for the most part, being the drive and cohesion that ties everything together. That's not to say there isn't some stand-out moments like the song "Jack And Tina" with drumming heavily drawn from jazz.
Sadly in 1999 Sandman died and the band disbanded. A truly great loss for the alternative rock scene, if not music in general. If you haven't heard this band and are on the fence, do yourself a favour and buy this album. I bought it blind and did not regret it. At the very least, find the songs around the web and give them a listen. Morphine is a band that everyone should hear at least once.