Well, it’s that day of the week again. The day I inevitably venture into Ground Zero of Corporate Hell (ie. the office) to slog out another day of corporate bullshit. Yay, me. The good news is, that while I get lost in writing my modules and presentations I can escape into my headset and block out all that BS thanks to the marvel that is YouTube. And today’s bullshit “blocker-outer”, so to speak, is the ‘Like Swimming‘ album by Morphine.
I have mentioned before that this is a band I wish I had known about way back in my stoner days;university especially. But I’m doing my best to make up for lost time (with the band, not the weed) here at the office today.
This album (their 4th) was released back in 1997 on Rykodisc, which would have coincided nicely with my alma mater stoner days. The music, which connects with listeners on a very physical level, is so simple it’s amazing no one’s done it before. Using exclusively low-register instruments, Mark Sandman’s two-string bass and baritone voice, and Dana Colley’s bass and baritone saxophones, the band’s songs actually reverberate in the chest, treating listeners to a low-impact massage. And anything that feels this good can’t be bad.
But Morphine’s blessing – that distinctive low rock sound – is also their curse. Not only do they bind themselves to an instantly recognizable sound, but they also limit themselves in their arrangements: Voice and sax can each hit only one note at a time (though Colley sometimes manages to honk two saxes at once), while the bass can manage a two-note interval at best. It’s hard being dynamic using only three or four sounds.
‘Like Swimming’ is easy to appreciate, full of loping bass lines and slithery sax riffs that strut through jazzy rock numbers like ‘Wishing Well‘ and ‘Empty Box‘. But while newcomers may be happy with the band’s warm swing, others will pine for the first time they heard the band’s earlier breakthrough on ‘Cure For Pain’ (which, I think I’ll check out next). Only with the album closer ‘Swing It Low‘ (a title that could be a band manifesto) does Morphine hint at changes to come: With guitar, keyboards, programmed drums, and no saxophone, the song (first released as a Sandman solo project) proves it possible to capture Morphine’s noir moods in mid-range as well.
But there is also great contrast in this album as well. For instance, take the hauntingly sublime ‘I Know You (Pt. 3)‘ and the chaotic ‘11 O’Clock‘. Only Morphine could deliver these two opposite styles of music with such perfection.
It’s simply the tits and a great start to an otherwise day full of the usual office bullshit.
Oh, and on a side note, the album cover is pretty accurate representation of how I felt by the end of my 3500m swim strength workout this morning.