Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Morning Stars - Radiation

I wouldn't go so far as to say that we're old hands at this music thing yet, but The Pope and I and this beast we call the Ripple have been at it long enough to start to see the second go-around from bands that we've rippled. I mean so far, we've already had wonderful second (or even third) efforts from such bands as Mountain Mirrors, Braintoy, Gumshen, Dream Aria, and follow-up albums from bands like TK and soon, The Thieves. And one of the most rewarding parts of that continuity is seeing how the bands grow and change and mature.

All of which leads me to this dynamite second release from perennial Ripple favorites, The Morning Stars. Following up on their smash of a debut, You Can't Change the World, the brothers Ivic (Mars and Michael) and drummer Donn Dixon have dipped back into the never-ending bag of Manchester shoegazing psychedelia, old school rock and roll nuggets and Beatles-esque melodies and pulled out another stunner. This is an absolute gem of an album, shimmering with the brilliance of a diamond, multifaceted and sparkling. Why more people don't know about this band is beyond my comprehension, but damn it, that's why The Pope and I started this thing in the first place, to spread the word.

When the brothers Ivic first contacted me and asked if I wanted to receive the pre-pre-release copy of the disc, I had to find a way to pick my jaw up off the desk before I could answer with my best stuttering, "Hell yeah!" Dying for the chance to see where the brothers decided to take their sound from You Can't Change the World, I was instantly rewarded. My favorite track on that debut album, and one that's been spun at least a couple of times on Ripple Radio, was "All Coming Down," a downright perfect song or as I described it, "neo-psychedelic Stone Roses shoegazing, swirling, whirling, can't stop my ass from grooving, Britrock. Drop in a nasty The Godfathers guitar riff and we've found the highlight of the album." So where does a band go from there?

Without missing a beat,"We All Belong to the Red Sun," jumps right back into that vibe, showcasing a massive maturation in their songwriting and composing. An endlessly swirling soundscape of lush churning acid guitars, celestial synths and a back beat destined for the Manchester dance floors. Throw in a hefty dose of Oasis-styled vocals, only more emotive without the nasal whine, some big chunky guitar fills, and we've got ourselves a damn winner. Sounds layer onto each other effortlessly, displaying that marvelous composition craft I mentioned, the whole song building upon itself with nary a break of sweat. Just listening to this track I can see the kaleidoscopic lights swirling across the black light posters and lava lamps of some infinitely cool, unself-pretentious club. Martinis sparkling in the spotlights. Beautiful women swaying to the beat. Yes, it is that good.

"Slipped Away," brings on a chunky, early 1964-ish Stones guitar riff and a drum line that'd make Charlie Watts drool with envy. Without too much imagination, I can easily visualize a young and still cool Mick Jagger singing this baby in a crowded club. And talking about songwriting. . . just check out the build up the chorus which then elevates clear off the disc into the stratosphere. The boys take this song in and out of emotional highs, but never lose sight of that all present riff. Beautifully done.

If "Slipped Away," hinted at days gone by, but still rooted in the present, "You Won't Understand," takes us all the back. This is a big 1960's ballad that could've been produced by Mickie Most or appeared on Cat Stevens' Matthew and Son album. At least until the burst of Velvet Underground-esque guitar feed backs sears through the mix like some caged animal gnawing through the ropes to freedom.

The instrumental "Murder of Roman Polanski," holds space, creating a chance to catch your breath before the boys launch into the showstopper of a title cut, "Radiation." Huge looping guitar-lines, a throbbing bass and perfect production thrill as the neo-psychedelia comes raving back. Pass me the X, because this song is a spinner at a rave, late night dancing, swirling and turning to the sound that fills the room all around you. A big Manchester back beat keeps this mini-epic propelled forward and Ivic's voice drips of emotion without ever reaching for it or losing site of the perfectly carved in granite melody. Another example of the boys reaching to new heights since their debut disc. When we play this one on the Ripple, do yourself a favor, and turn the lights down, get up off the chair and free your ass to get up and move.

And of course, the album goes on from there, through the throwback pop of "Gypsy Rose," to the retro-garage punk of "Oh No, No, No,"all the way to the neo-Beatles-esque melody of "Porcupine." In the end, The Morning Stars have created a dazzling, adventure of retro-pop psychedelia, laced with menace and brimming with confidence. Comparisons to Oasis and the Stone Roses will still be inevitable in the Morning Stars sound, but if anything, Radiation is even more exciting and compulsively listenable than their debut. Let me make the declaration loud and clear:

The Morning Stars aren't a band worth watching. They're a band worth knowing now.


Check for updates on the new album here:

And find their first album here: You Can't Change The World


Barbara(aka Layla) said...

I loved your show tonight and have to make sure I get the names of the bands you mentioned....I have no memory. I recall one was a woman's name that started with an "R" (I think).

Anyhow...keep bringing the great music!

The RIpple Effect said...

Thanks, Layla. It's always great to have you listening. We did have a lot of fun with that show. My set was Rachael, Robbers, and Soundside with the JPT Band as my bonus song.

Pope's was Farflung, Attic of Love, and War Stories, with Farmakon (the crazy one) and Braintoy as he later songs.

Hope all is wonderful with you!

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