January 12, 2006

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Morningwood, Morningwood
Capitol 2006
A

New York dance punk quartet Morningwood infected the airwaves with their chant-tastic indie pop hit “Nth Degree.” And why shouldn’t it get massive airplay? After all, what was the last good song to include spelling the band’s name over and over?

Morningwood is a Strokes-cum-Veruca Salt mixture that sounds a bit like one might feel on some dubiously cut ecstasy. It’s nyphomaniacal, excessively dancable, and certainly makes one want to bounce and grind against somebody who is not nearly as sexually intriquing as they appear at the moment. It is also emotionally and sensually earnest and unabashed. There is an upfront nature to frontwoman Chantel Claret’s lyrics that speaks deeper than the writhing punk sexuality. It’s like the post-feminist lust of The Donnas or Yeah Yeah Yeahs, two groups to which there is more than a shared female component connecting them musically.

Bassist Pedro Yanowitz (formerly of The Wallflowers and Money Mark) delivers the steady beat that drives many of Morningwood’s best songs. His history as a drummer seems to have heavily influenced his bass playing as Morningwood’s undercurrents enjoy a pleasingly staccato rhythm. Drummer John Paul Keenan (formerly of Asian-pop-rap/Sean Lennon-vehicle Cibo Matto) expertly backbeats the whole endeavor.

Morningwood features the signature aggressive fuzzy guitar and bass hooks that brought the new New York City rock scene to the fore. What they do differently than The Strokes or Hot Hot Heat is inject an edge of Plasmatic- era punk princess-hood and undercut the whole endeavor with the cute alternative stylings of some underappreciated heroes of the early nineties like Heather Nova, Liz Phair and latter-day Smashing Pumpkins

If you want to rock, grind or simply feel some great beats in your nether bits Morningwood doesn’t disappoint. This tight album runs the gamut from punk club anthems like “New York Girls” & “Nü Rock” to more playful fare in “Babysitter” and “Body 21.”

Producer Gil Norton (Echo & The Bunnymen, Pixies) has captured something thoroughly enjoyable here and there is nary a slacking track on this debut. One can only hope that their follow-up doesn’t drop the crazed Guns ‘n Roses + Weezer + Hole concoction that Morningwood delivers.

— Glenn Given