Monday, December 31, 2012

I'd Love to Turn You On #72 - Morphine - Yes

Most people who mention Morphine cite 1993's Cure for Pain as their peak. While Cure for Pain should be counted among the classics, I find myself reaching for their lesser mentioned 1995 follow up, Yes, more often. Cure For Pain, while unique and consistent, is a relatively safe record. Every note, whether it be from Dana Colley's twin sax attack or Sandman's sultry baritone, is sweet and pleasing. That's its appeal. Yes ups the ante by taking this formula and adding a healthy amount of experimentation into the mix. As a result, Yes finds Morphine reclaiming a sense of rawness that normally diminishes over a band's catalog while at the same time sounding more in tune with one another than ever before.
            Yes can almost be split into two disparate, but equally satisfying halves. On one hand are the straight ahead pop songs of the type that can be heard on Cure for Pain. Tracks like "Scratch," "Whisper" and "All Your Way" would not be out of place on that record. The other half of Yes introduces experiments with dissonance, spoken word, and the use of space to create tension.
             Some of the experimentation on Yes is subtle and sprinkled in to create unexpected detours. An example is in "Radar," where Sandman plays with spoken word and the use of empty space to step out of the time signature. He seems to relish in this new found freedom by drawing out his unaccompanied "I've got all the time in the world…I've got all the time in the world…to spare" before the band hops back on and rides the groove home.

            But for all of the subtlety, there are a handful of out and out curve balls like "The Jury" and "Sharks." On these songs, you can hear Sandman's adoration for the Beat poets not only in his delivery but also in his imagery. On "The Jury" Sandman plays a judge who struggles in the sentencing of a beautiful woman by wavering between whispered, serene images of "candlelight, red wine, Caesar salad" and the commanding, sterile language of a courtroom. Behind him, Dana Colley creates the perfect musical counterpart evoking the image of an irresistible woman while Sandman doles out intermittent bass stabs to indicate a sinister intent.
            The experimentation isn't relegated to the vocals as the band can be heard pushing personal boundaries as well as those of the group. Examples can be heard in the pummeling sax solo on "Free Love" and the reckless abandon displayed by the band in the choruses of "Sharks" and "Super Sex."
            The songs on Yes are darker and less predictable than those on Cure For Pain, and sexier as a result. This can be attributed to the late great Mark Sandman, whose restlessness consistently paid off. Truly, there will never be another band quite like Morphine, and Yes will remain a compelling document to behold for years to come.
            - Paul Custer

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