“Boom Puma”, the opening track on Morning Teleportation’s debut album, starts with a few seconds of incoherent shouting, followed by a pounding drumbeat and a sloppy surf guitar riff. Singer Tiger Merritt comes in mumble-shouting some more nonsense, and then the song stops dead for some wordless vocal harmonies. Then it’s right back into the sloppy surf rock, this time with what sounds like talk-boxed guitar and background piano pounding. Halfway through its five-and-a-half minute running time, the song completely changes. The second half of the track shifts back and forth from a spacey, prog-rock guitar solo to an airy jam band-style falsetto vocal section.
If this sounds head-spinningly weird and potentially awful, you’re not far wrong. “Boom Puma” is an exceedingly strange song that encapsulates a lot of what Morning Teleportation does, but it doesn’t come close to capturing them at their best. Second track “Eyes the Same” is much more traditional indie-rock, with actual lyrics, a catchy chorus, and strong interplay between the band’s two guitars and keyboards. It has a springy lightness to it, and actually doesn’t sound that different from something Modest Mouse would write. Which may be why Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock is fully on board promoting this band, co-producing the album and putting it out on his own Glacial Pace label.
It isn’t until Expanding Anyway‘s third track, “Snow Frog vs. Motor Cobra” that Morning Teleportation start to reveal how good they can be. The song starts with a horn-laden groove that sounds like it came out of a ‘60s action show, complete with fiery guitar solo. Then it slides into a totally different groove dominated by a disco beat, cabaret-style piano, and a whacked-out tremolo synth line. There’s a third section to the song as well, with more talkbox guitar, this time singing the title of the track, and eventually the song ends up back in the disco beat cabaret. This time around, the head-on collision of styles actually works in the band’s favor, and it sounds like a coherent song.
The rest of the album is similarly unhinged. Morning Teleportation is decent when they stick with a single style for an entire song, as in the bright, speedy title track and the relaxed, acoustic “Daydream Electric Storm”. However, they seem more comfortable being a little crazy and throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall. Sometimes, like in “Boom Puma”, it doesn’t stick, but when it does the band comes off sounding like a bunch of disheveled, manic geniuses. The album’s longest track, the nine-minute “Wholehearted Drifting Sense of Inertia” is also its best. It begins with a lively guitar riff and tom-dominated drums, while Merritt alternately sings and howls. But the song quickly drifts into a credible funk groove, complete with active bassline and trumpet accompaniment. Before you know it, synth and organ deepen the groove until the band is actually teasing George Clinton’s “Flashlight”. Then the song whips back into the opening theme, meanders into an airy guitar solo, and ends up in a full-band jam the includes a disco beat, piano flourishes, nimble guitar, and trumpet bursts.
The similarly danceable “Foreign Planes” has more of this anything-goes style, with swirling video game synths in the A section and a B section that not only sounds like something Phish would write, but possibly references the Phish song “The Curtain”. And then there are some barnyard animal noises courtesy of Merritt, and a guitar/keyboard duet where the two instruments play in unison. “Banjo Disco” lays it all out in the title, giving us four-and-a-half minutes of a banjo jig combined with a disco beat, with more of those video game synths thrown in for good measure.
Even though everything on Expanding Anyway doesn’t quite work, the band deserves credit for taking big risks. They don’t sound like anybody else out there, and their high energy level powers them through even the dud songs. There’s a level of sloppiness here that’s really appealing, too, as if the band is so excited to be playing that they can’t quite bother to get every guitar solo and keyboard riff perfect. Drummer Tres Coker is Morning Teleportation’s saving grace in this regard, because he’s dead-on perfect in every song, and he keeps the songs together even when the rest of the band is close to flying off the rails. Most of their big risks pay off in cool-sounding songs that manage to effectively combine elements of indie, disco, and jam rock.
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// Notes from the Road
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