As you can probably infer from the band’s name, Morningwood are the latest metal-inspired party band to be as bad and potty-mouthed as they want to be. Their songs feature lyrics like “We would both lift up our shirts / Kissed him once, you kissed him twice” (“Ride the Lights”) and puns involving the word “come.” The quartet’s frontwoman, Chantal Claret, is spastically sexual with pure, gutsy attitude pumping through her veins. And while Morningwood is undoubtedly out to rock and shock, its shtick is predictable.
Nevertheless, its self-titled debut has its hard-rocking moments. “Nü Rock” kicks off the album with loud authority, charging guitars and crashing drums. Claret’s rowdy yelping adds edge to “Easy,” an old-school metal anthem reminiscent of AC/DC; “Body” is similarly thunderous and straightforward, with contrasting vocals that cement the band’s personal style. The band steps out of that established style on “Take Off Your Clothes,” a meandering, mostly spoken ode to (what else?) sex. The song is oddly fascinating and kind of fun, but it’s harsh on the ears.
“Nth Degree” is a sugary contrast to the dirtier songs and is catchy as hell. In fact, it’s so infectious that American Eagle is hilariously using the song’s chant of ”M-O-R-N-I-N-G-W-O-O-D” in a television commercial to sell its tank tops, jeans and other casual basics. This band absolutely loves to spell things out- it doesn’t end with “Nth Degree.” The “Everybody Rules” features a chant of ‘E-V-E-R-Y-B-O-D-Y.” If Morningwood wasn’t so darn crude, they could make fun and exciting musical videos teaching youngsters to spell.
Claret is a spunky and likeable frontwoman with range, her vocals effortlessly swinging from a sweet and gentle coo to a raucous howl on songs like “Jetsetter” and “Televisor.” But her persona is so out there that it pigeonholes the band and constricts Morningwood’s chance of expanding its audience. The “sexy” conversational banter between Claretand bassist Pedro Yanowitz on “New York Girls” and “Take Off Your Clothes” is more comical than stimulating, yet the deadpan delivery proves that yes, they are serious. Perhaps the players behind Morningwood just need to let their sense of humor shine through.
Morningwood’s self-titled debut is certainly interesting, with commanding riffs and provocative vocals. However, it’s tough for a band to make a career out of female-fronted cock rock; similar bands (remember the Donnas?) have made a quick buck and disappeared into obscurity. The sub-genre is so overtly raunchy and desperate to shock that its bands are destined to be a short-lived novelty from the beginning. The music is great for parties or for making your prudish friends uncomfortable, but will we remember Morningwood the morning after?
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.