Morcheeba releases its "Woo! We're getting the band back together!" album. Unfortunately, its signature chill-out sound is more lazy than lush on this release.
Morcheeba may have continued to be in existence in some form since its formation in the mid-1990s, but its sound will almost certainly be forever associated with that decade. Before the Time-dubbed "Decade From Hell", Morcheeba's blend of lush, loungy trip-hop perfectly captured the carefree, decadent dot-com era that was the mid-'90s. Even if that decade contained its share of wars and economic misery, it seemed far easier to evade those problems, and Morcheeba was the soundtrack of escape. The group's first two albums, Who Can You Trust? (1996) and Big Calm (1998), had an irresistible formula: deliver some jazzy hip-hop style beats and lay them over Skye Edwards' vocals, which were the perfect mix of frigid cool and warm soul.
In 2003, Edwards left Morcheeba. Brothers Ross and Paul Godfrey continued, but the group's signature voice was gone. Seven years later (according to a post by Edwards on her MySpace page), the three had dinner, got tipsy, and decided to reform. A scant four months later, Morcheeba's new album Blood Like Lemonade is already available for download or in stores (in the UK).
For about four songs on Blood Like Lemonade, it sounds like 1998 all over again in a good way. The opening track, "Crimson", is the perfect vehicle to welcome Edwards back into the fold. Her ached delivery of the chorus "hellbound hopeless for you" will linger in a listener's ears long after the album ends. It's the type of track that makes you question whether you downloaded the album correctly, as the slow burning nature of the song seems more at home at an album's midway point.
Things continue to go good for the reunited Morcheeba. "Even Though" may not be as memorable as "Crimson", but it's by no means a weak track, and serves as a great lead-in to the title track. While "Blood Like Lemonade" contains horribly clichéd vampire imagery and an admittedly silly simile, the Godfrey brothers manage to keep the pacing light. The band had enough faith in the song to concoct a drink after it.
Edwards' vocals and the Godfrey brothers production can make a listener forgive a few wince-worthy lyrics or some ill-placed samples--such as in the bluesy instrumental "Mandala" -- but even their talent can't bail them out during the album's woeful second half. It doesn't help that the song names are the type of titles that would make an English teacher bleed on your essay (see "Cut to the Chase", "Easier Said Than Done", and "Recipe for Disaster"). And the group's millennial update to James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World", "Self Made Man", contains such insightful observations like "There's no such thing as a self-made man / 'Cause everyone needs a helping hand".
The worst part of Blood Like Lemonade is its stagnant pacing. While Big Calm had a least a few mid-tempo numbers, all of the songs on Blood Like Lemonade have the same downtempo vibe. It's fine if you're going to make an album suited for late-night listening, but not when your effort lulls people to slumber.
By just bringing Edwards back into the mix, Blood Like Lemonade is Morcheeba's best album in years. In terms of a musical statement, it's unlikely the album will help or hurt the band's reputation. It's unfair to expect Morcheeba to come up with a release that rivals Big Calm after almost a decade apart. But usually when a band reforms, fans hope it's because the group has something to say with its new release. Unfortunately, Blood Like Lemonade, has little to say to even Morcheeba's most dedicated fans.