There’s been some great trios in rock. Mainstream acts like Cream, The Police, Rush, and cult favorites like Primus and Hüsker Dü made their bones on the backs of three bandmates – when the usual was at least four. Ask my favorite trio and I won’t hesitate; Morphine.
Yeah, I like Morphine more than The Jimi Hendrix Experience. To each his own, Honkus.
Formed in 1989, Morphine made four great records before frontman Mark Sandman died on stage ten years later, and released another excellent album after that. They were a power trio like no other, favoring groove over flamboyance, crafting moody, sexy tunes that smoldered like a lipstick covered cigarette at the bottom of your rocks glass.
Sandman only had two strings on his bass, and he bent them like they owed him money, making late night music for sketchy humans that can’t be trusted after eleven o’clock. Here’s 5 Great Morphine Tracks from a band with plenty more.
“Come on a little closer I got something to say.“
Great ingredients speak for themselves; drums, bass, sax, and Sandman’s red-blooded vocals. Buena is a song for those of us crying out from the back of the room for “something good.”
- All Wrong
“She had a smile that swerved all over the road.“
This is classic Morphine, right here. That oily bassline, those double tracked horns, and that swing, baby. And if you think the sax solo sounds like it’s squeezed through a wah-wah pedal, you’d be right.
From Yes, their superb 1995 record, Radar is a prime example of the self described “low rock” sound Morphine owned exclusively. As usual, Sandman proves he can be as mysterious and esoteric as Tom Waits, breathlessly admitting “If I am guilty, so are you. It was March 4th, 1982.”
- I Know You (Part III)
This track from 1997’s Like Swimming is as cryptic, low and slow as anything Morphine put to tape. You can almost hear the humidity in this track. “I know you and you know me, and I know you and you know me, and I know you.“
- Cure For Pain
“Someday there’ll be a cure for pain / That’s the day I throw my drugs away.“
I bought Cure for Pain six months after it was released. It was February of 94, the day my friends bought Dookie by Green Day. I even gave Dookie a great write-up in a NY newspaper at the time. But twenty plus years later, it’s no contest: Cure For Pain has aged better than any proto-punk record could ever hope to. It’s one of the most timeless records of the era.
Janita – Three Songs She’d Love to Have Written
Janita’s newest album Here Be Dragons is another in a progression of finely crafted hymns for the empowered. Whether by love, as in the silky “I Do,” or by subverting expectations, in the Beatlesesque “Not What You’re Used To,” Janita draws on lessons learned during a positively unique career that spans decades and continents. We caught up with Janita on the heels of her latest single “When It’s All Up To You” to find out three songs she’d love to have written.
Elliott Smith — “L.A.”
This is one of my favorite songs by Elliott Smith. I listened to the full album Figure 8 a lot while I was writing the songs on my new album, and it was a huge influence on me both melodically and lyrically. This song in particular has also informed some of the production choices we made later, like the heavier guitars you hear on my song “Not What You’re Used To.”
“L.A.” is incredibly melodic, but there’s an elusive, haunting quality to it. It feels like you’re always trying to reach it, catch up to it somehow. The backing vocals accentuate that feeling. In my mind, the song paints such a vivid picture of the ephemeral, fickle nature of L.A., and the similarly transient nature of the main character. Elliott Smith himself? I don’t know exactly how he does (did) it, but I’m certainly in awe of it.
Radiohead — “There There”
So hypnotic. So badass. Could the production possibly be any cooler? The melody is intricate and beautiful, and I can relate to the lyric from every which angle: as the singer, as the one being sung to, and whether in love relationships, friendships, or with total strangers. The subject matter simply comes up in life in so many ways all the time… I recently tried to express similar notions as I was writing a song, only to remember that it was already done here perfectly. Goddammit.
Punch Brothers — “Julep”
This song is simply magical to me. It’s made me bawl my eyes out at a Punch Brothers concert two separate times. It’s like that viral video that was circulating some years ago of a baby moved to tears when her mom sings a sad tune. I’m that baby when it comes to this song. It simply hits some sort of primal button in me and keeps pressing it until the very end.
While you’re at it, check out Janita’s video for “Digging in the Dirt,” a funky and faithful rendition of the Peter Gabriel classic.
New Music – Bachelor
Jay Som’s Melina Duterte and Palehound’s Ellen Kempner join forces as Bachelor – a musical powerhouse whose new record Doomin’ Sun drops May 28th on Polyvinyl.
Kemper and Duterter recorded the album during two weeks of mutual appreciation in California. Three visceral singles have been released in the lead-up, including the Pixies-flavored “Stay in the Car” and the sprawling “Anything At All.”
Bachelor has also announced the Doomin’ Sun Fest, a one-day livestream featuring Tegan & Sara, Courtney Barnett, Adrianne Lenker, Jeff Tweedy, Japanese Breakfast, Julien Baker, and more.
Self-Serving Interview with Electronic Device Does Little to Advance Musician’s Career
Two men that look suspiciously alike meet outside a fictitious Brooklyn hot-spot – six feet apart.
MC Krispy E: Very nice to meet you. (squints) Have we met before?
Electronic Device: Maybe?
MC Krispy E: Is the rest of the band joining us?
Electronic Device: (pause) I am the rest of the band.
MC Krispy E: You are Electronic Device? What’s that about?
Electronic Device: Uhm, yeah, it’s like a pen name. You know what that is, right?
MC Krispy E: I have some idea.
Electronic Device: It was actually the name of one of my dad’s companies back in the day before…
MC Krispy E: (looking at his watch) Wonderful. So… it says here you have a new single called “All Things Come to an End” inspired by the death of your brother.
Electronic Device: Yeah, after my brother died I recorded songs as a form of therapy in his old bedroom in Staten Island.
MC Krispy E: And now I read that you have cancer. Am I supposed to feel extra sorry for you?
Electronic Device: Uhm…
MC Krispy E: It sounds like this album is going to be super depressing.
Electronic Device: It’s not, I swear. I was looking for some happiness while recording these songs, there’s not much of an agenda beyond that.
Electronic Device: I wasn’t really thinking about influences while recording, but listening back I hear some Concrete Blonde, some Cracker.
MC Krispy: So bands no one is interested in?
Electronic Device: What the hell, man?
MC Krispy: Sorry, it’s almost like I can’t help it. What’s the single about?
Electronic Device: I hate saying what a song is about because everything is up for interpretation.
MC Krispy E: Humor us.
Electronic Device: I can say that “All Things Come to an End” has multiple narrators, some of which are unreliable.
MC Krispy E: (stares)
Electronic Device: And that one day I was at my Dad’s house and when I turned the corner into the hallway my Dad thought I was my brother for a moment, which was super sad because of course I couldn’t be.
MC Krispy E: And then you wrote a whole song about that.
Electronic Device: I guess so. When you put it that way…
MC Krispy E: (yawning) Tell us when the single come out.
Electronic Device: The single is out now. The album comes out in 2021.
MC Krispy E: Well, good for you. And good luck with that cancer thing.
Electronic Device: Yeah, you too.
MC Krispy E: Thanks. What?