Bring On The Mesmeric Condition – The Morlocks (Hound Gawd)
When it comes to bands from the ‘80s wave of garage revivalists, The Morlocks don’t get a fair shake, even for cult artists.
Put it down to their splintered history - there have been more line-ups than chords in a prog rock opera - or singer Leighton Koizumi’s disappearing act - years behind bars after a drug deal gone wrong will do that to your profile - but you never hear them mentioned in the same breath as, say, The Fuzztones or Lyres.
It’s been eight years since the all-covers “The Morlocks Play Chess”, a salute to the artists from the label of the same name, and Kolzumi has left the US West Coast to domicile himself in Germany.
For “Bring On The Mesmeric Condition” he assembled a “new” crew of mostly old fuzz fiends: Rob Louwers on drums ( Fuzztones, Q-65, Link Wray) Oliver Pilsner on bass (Fuzztones, Cheeks, Montesas, Magnificent Brotherhood) and guitarists Bernadette (Sonny Vincent, Humpers) and Marcello Salis (Kolzumi’s ex-Gravedigger V bandmate) make for some line-up.
The record was recorded in Germany and mixed by expat Detroiter Jim Diamond – so you know it sounds stellar. And tough.
Previous Morlocks records have been faithful to their garage recording session inspirations, tending to be paddling on the muddy side of a very dark sonic creek. On “Bring On The Mesmeric Condition”, Detroit Jim has given them a leathery skin that’s harder than Chinese arithmetic.
This is the best-sounding Morlocks record to date. Salis and Bernadette are wielding demolition balls instead of guitars. Occasional keyboard assistance and Koizumi’s greasy blues harp add to the palette.
“Easy Action” is propelled by withering, air raid guitars (in stereo, no less) and a monstrous bottom-end. Koizumi’s lascivious vocal is peppered by his own barks and screams as Salis and Bernadette go to war with their axes.
These are terrific songs with some sometimes obvious reference points. “One Foot In The Grave” sounds like death’s door Iggy and the Stooges with its bar room piano and relentless guitars, while the razor wire riffing of “High Tide Killer” sounds positively edgy underneath the singer’s careering baritone.
Tackling an Elevators song isn’t for the faint-hearted but The Morlocks make a superbly reverb-stained “You Don’t Know” their very own.
“Heart of Darkness” is the lighter-touch number that’s placed a third of the way through the album to give you a pause for breath. Koizumi channels an old bluesman fairly masterfully.
Leighton Koizumi does his rep as one of the most under-appreciated but personable garage punk vocalists no harm. On tracks like the stabbing “No-one Rides For Free”, the pop-gone-wrong “Down Underground” and the hustling “Time To Move” he manages to sound snotty, sassy and snarly in equal measures.
It’s available from Hound Dawg in Germany on CD or LP and if you're outside of Europe, it's well worth the pain of international postage. Buy it here.