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Bentley's Bandstand: The Morlocks

Posted By Karen Young On November 11, 2010 @ 1:00 am In Arts & Culture,Music | No Comments

BY BILL BENTLEY

The Morlocks, Play Chess, Popantipop Records

Blues-rock is a many-headed beast. On one hand, it’s all boogie and sweat like Canned Heat and J. Geils Band were when they began. On the other, it can be much more nuanced and inward, like John Hammond and Bonnie Raitt’s earliest records. Either way, it’s guaranteed to hit the monkey nerve and crank the inner thermometer well past the boiling point.

Over the past 50 years, the style continues to regenerate and morph, like a reptile that will not be stopped. Take the Morlocks. They were formed in the early ’80s in Southern California, and were one of those outfits who seemed to be running full-tilt towards the abyss. There was just no holding them back, and felt destined for the end of the line. After a few years of holy hell raising, the Morlocks flamed out and fell apart. In an backstreet alley Cinderella story, though, they have been able to pull themselves together, and surge to the top of the mountain on Play Chess. It is an album of songs first appearing on Chicago’s Chess Records, give or take one or two, by the label’s elite. Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, Sonny Boy Williamson, John Lee Hooker Chuck Berry and others gave birth to this music, and it would be a capital offense to deliver it with anything less than dedicated passion. Naturally, no one wants a note-for-note imitation, but the whole point of blues is inner-expression. Without that, there’s enough techno out there already.

The sound of the Morlocks is messy beyond belief, full of blazing guitar solos and guttural voices that come straight from the gutter. It is music that bores a hole in your soul, and whose appreciation is somewhere south of the cerebral. They’d be perfect entertainment for a nice Sunday dance in a women’s prison, catered by Gilbey’s gin and Nathan’s hot dogs. There is nothing hotsy-totsy about Play Chess, thank goodness, and it is likely music listeners will love or not like at all. Take a stand for the Morlocks. They could use the juice.

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