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Gurf Morlix

Finds the Present Tense

(Rootball; US: 5 Mar 2013; UK: 25 Mar 2013)

Heavy Vibrations

Brian Wilson used to look for good vibrations. That was the sixties. Times have changed. Gurf Morlix lives in the present, where life is tense. Every day the headlines ring with new traumas. Morlix feels heavy vibrations.


Unfortunately, Morlix doesn’t really explain why. He notes that there is hate and fear in the world and offers metaphors of locusts and famine, but these seem timeless and work against his lyrical conceit that now is worse than before. Musically, the tune of “Present Tense” itself is familiar, reminiscent of the late Warren Zevon’s “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner”, which adds to the lack of imminent danger suggested by the title. There are two ways to deal with finding “the present tense.” One is identifying the cause and working for change. The other is taking an aspirin. Morlix seems more in need of an aspirin. The times demand more.


This sense of being on the sidelines does not always mean he cannot participate. On “Gasoline” Morlix notes he didn’t start the fire—in this case a metaphor for “wild desire”—he just poured on the petrol after the match had been struck. The low key way in which Morlix delivers his lines and the lilting instrumental background contrasts with his self-described feelings in an odd way. One is supposed to believe he’s being burned up by hot emotions as he sings and plays in a slow and quiet manner. Maybe. The old axiom about the quiet ones being the most dangerous comes into play here. Still, I wish he would have turned up the speed and increased the volume to express his passion.


On the longest track, the eight-minute “These Are My Blues”, Morlix sings about wallowing in his emotions all night long. The words about a cheating lover suggest he’s mad, but again Morlix seems to be caught in a miasma of feelings rather than being angry. He doesn’t raise his voice or play nasty notes. Maybe he should just wash away his shallow troubles with Calgon.


Yet Morlix’s stoicism, both vocally and instrumentally, may be his greatest strength. It allows him to represent those who feel their lives have already been taken by forces beyond their control on every level. The world may not be their home, but neither is their home with someone who just happened to be the one they are with. The characters exemplified by Morlix are looking for others in which they can find themselves, a fruitless search by its very nature. They are bound to keep searching for something they cannot find.


These are the silent majority of now, the ones no longer looking for good vibrations and not angry enough to wail against the evils of the day. The closest Morlix gets to criticism is his poppy anti-gun rant, “Bang Bang Bang”, that notes the problems of too many bullets flying without really identifying why or what needs to be done. Sure, music should not be propaganda, but it needs to offer some insight. Morlix is satisfied to represent the innocent bystander. No wonder he is so tense.

Rating:

Steven Horowitz has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Iowa, where he continues to teach a three-credit online course on "Rock and Roll in America". He has written for many different popular and academic publications including American Music, Paste and the Icon. Horowitz is a firm believer in Paul Goodman's neofunctional perspective on culture and that Sam Cooke was right, a change is gonna come.


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This may not be blues music, but Morlix confronts some of life’s bleakest moments. He sees with clear eyes and doesn’t whine about it. He just tells it like it is and uplifts the listener through the force of his music.
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