In early December last year, a five-piece band called Morning Parade played all the songs from their forthcoming debut album at the Camden Barfly in London, a top-notch spot where promising acts strut their stuff. A music writer friend of mine was there and mailed me about Morning Parade in the context of yet another mail from me groaning about today’s ridiculously puffy emo music where every band tries to outdo the other in sounding like girls on the verge of pubescence, mass-sighing to a Twilight movie. He told me to give the band a listen as it wasn’t the usual ‘indi music’ scam. I wrote back groaning more and I forgot about the band.
Until the Morning Parade’s eponymous debut album landed on my lap two weeks ago. Frankly, the track ‘Under the stars’, released earlier as a single and which seems to have caught the fancy of the chart, left me with my thesis intact: rock’n’roll is going through a podgy phase that passes off gooey juice as being ‘emotive’. In this diet operatic song, frontman Steve Sparrow does his bit to sound like Chris Martin with a Maroon 5 fetish.
“I’m going to set your soul alight/ under the stars” is not going to have the fresh lyricism of, say, ‘Yellow’. The background ‘club console pumping’ music makes the track doubly tiresome to listen. But then why start with track number 6 when you can start with the solid bassline in track number 7? ‘Close to your heart’ has a momentum that froths out into a luscious, heart-melting chorus. The fact that the song is highly pogo-friendly makes me appreciate Sparrow’s vocals better.
But let’s go back. The album starts with the gritty munch of ‘Blue winter’, Sparrow’s voice moving in and out of Kasabian’s frontman TomMeighan’s territory. It’s in ‘Headlights’ that we get the juice flowing. The riffs and breaks are so obvious that you can park your car blindfolded in them. But the point is that the number makes you, well, happy. A chorus line, “Cos like a rabbit in your headlights/ I am the beckon to your call/ And like the early morning headlines/ I am all too predictable,” may not be self-deprecatory but still...
‘Carousel’ is a fine pop song with Andrew Hayes playing charming old-style drum rolls. Although the line, “I long for the smell of your hair…” strikes me as being set up for an L’Oreal product placement. ‘Running down the aisle’, starts with a piano and a sigh and has some high emotional high notes struck at the end. But it is essentially a song that some folks might like listening to while tightly clutching to a pillow.
The Morning Parade sound is best served by ‘Us & Ourselves’, a mid-tempo, mid-range, mid-everything song with an interesting tune. Essentially, the band sounds as if it’s trapped in an iPod. It’s best for the boys to have got this off their chest. One hopes that by their next album, they’ll have grown some brave ears.
My newfound tolerance for contemporary folk rock continues this week with the Decemberists’ live double album, We All Raise Our Voices To The Air. Recorded during the Portland band’s world tour last year to promote their last studio album, The King Is Dead, the proceedings start with ‘The Infanta’, from the 2005 album ‘Picaresque’. The galloping song about the doll-like 17th century Spanish princess Maria Teresa sets the tone and content to this long record — rich in instruments, frontman Colin Meloy’s vocal dramatics, old-style concert musings, and a general sense that will make fans of The Band (Robbie Robertson et al, that is) feel that all is not lost in the military-industrial-corporate soundtrack of ‘21st century’ today.
‘Calamity song’ from The King Is Dead has Colin do a Michael Stipe. And no wonder, consider Peter Buck of REM collaborated with the Decemberists in that album. Tracks like the Morrissey-influenced ‘We both go down together’ (from ‘Picaresque’) that excerpts the English singer’s song, ‘Angel, angel, down we go together; ‘The rake’s song’ (from the 2009 The Hazards of Love) with its gem of a hilarious line, “Meet me on my vast verandah/ My sweet, untouched Miranda”; the soul-shuffling ‘Rox in the box’ (from The king is dead); and ‘Dracula’s daughter’ (from Meloy’s 2008 live solo album, Colin Meloy Sings Live!), a scatty track that segues into some blood-thumping, barn-storming music — they all form a genuinely wholesome, energetic double-album listening experience.