Monday, October 26, 2009

The Morning After Girls: Alone

The Morning After Girls


I love rock 'n' roll. I like it simple. Three chords driven by a beat and some occasional harmonies from either guitar and/or vocals is all you need. However, every now and then a deviation from that comes along that makes me expand my paradigm. Most of us like at least some psychedelic music as it relates to early garage rock, but psych has taken so many twists, turns, and different beats that we tend to be very selective in the bands we like within that labeling. Hailing from from Australia, Tanzania, and New York City, The Morning After Girls take psychedelic rock on some familiar roads and then end up at very new places. I'm not sure if that description gives Alone enough justice. In many ways, this is completely new.

The opening "A New Silence" is a short drone of feedback. Not much to hook into, but goes right into the acoustic intro of "The Best Explanation", a song with beautiful soft vocal harmonies and explosions of celestial psych guitar and feedback that goes from complexity to simplicity and back again. It's a little sonically overwhelming, but carries a sharp, colorful lysergic quality that sounds both beautiful and confrontational. The following "The General Public" takes the paisley underground revival and turns it on its head by adding the Revolver influenced side of '80s Britpop in its dance beat, but with an emphasis on rawness instead of cleaner production that characterized much of the music from that era. The title track "Alone" continues in this vein closer to the early '90s Manchester psych of The Stone Roses or some of the Stonesier material from Primal Scream or The Verve, but the only strong commonality it has in its structure. The vocal harmonies are softer and much more memorable, but the guitar is both melodic and filled with feedback, which makes it more attention getting than what's commonly called "Shoegazer."

Like the title itself, "Death Processions" is a little on the brooding side with it's goth rock tone, but not quite dark psychedelia with wah guitar and noise. Nevertheless, it's another song that demands multiple listenings because one hears something different that they can't quite place their head around every time they hear it. In a slight continuance of the theme, "You Need To Die" matches only in title. The production, backing guitar melodies, and overall theme suggest more of the mid era Who/psych rock of The Soundtrack of Our Lives, but takes more risks. "Who Is They" also continues in this melodic mold, but like many other tracks on Alone, the combination of the harsh and the exquisite in vocals and guitars take one on familiar roads to places they've never been. On a personal note, this track amazed me to the point that I often had to pause it and take a break in order to absorb what I just heard.

"Part Of Your Nature" is probably the most straightforward tracks as an acoustic song, but also has vintage sounding loops (sound moving back and forth) and a harmonic, Edge like guitar climax that carries the song to its conclusion. "To Be Your Loss" has a lush, shimmering quality and a higher pitched vocal that more or less defines shoegazer music, but vocal contrast and guitar driven melody leaves a lot more enjoyment in its abrasive quality and volume.

"There's A Taking" catches one off guard given all the guitar hooks one has up to this point. It feels like a short, intense foray into Syd Barrett's mind in the mid '60s as he began to slip away. None of us have ever been there nor is anyone really qualified to say that, but it feels detached and somehow hints at accurate mental perception. I'm not really sure if there's a better way to describe it, but I think the interpretation is best left open. "Still Falling" has the complex but engaging sound of modern era The Chuch, only one also hears the folky simplicity of "Jane Says" for a song that is so beautiful that I felt a lump in my throat after the first few listens. However, this becomes the norm for Alone after repeated listens.

The lengthy, ending tome of "Tomorrow's Time" passes closely to the country tinged psychedelia of former labelmates The Asteroid #4, but the first 5 minutes are the bulk of the song followed by silence until the echoed noise of the last one and a half minutes.

On their new release, psychedelic rock is encapsulated and compressed from all the different revival eras into something that tends to explode outwards, expand, then contract. It's heavy, melodic, harmonic, abrasive, confrontational, never stays in the same place, but never strays into meandering or a background, which is really the essence of good psychedelic rock. It remains rock. It's exciting, different, goes in different directions, but never sounding like an aimless experiment.

As a major proponent of the three chord rock ethos, one has to move their feet and dance to call it good rock 'n' roll. There are notable deviations, but that's really it. Every now and then, something comes along that demands one to think twice. After all, if one cites bands like The Byrds, Love, VU, and a growing list of other acts that drew upon early psych and garage rock to reinterpret it, the idea grows and is no longer as cut and dry. Certain things come along that demand attention beyond the simple mindset. The new release from The Morning After Girls is not just a prime example of this, but truly phenomenal.

Alone is currently available exclusively on iTunes for the USA.

The General Public

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