Agony Shorthand

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

In the limited universe of 1980s garage-revival bands who’re any good, THE MORLOCKS are the ones that stand mophead-&-slumped shoulders above the rest, on this single EP’s merits alone. “Emerge” is a total monster, a record that pre-dated the hallowed early 90s let-it-rip garage punk by almost a full decade. It’s the razor’s edge of that overloaded, screaming 60s punk made famous on “Back From The Grave”, updated for 1985 stylings by a gaggle of cretinous San Diegans who absolutely lived 1965 in every way, shape and form. Most of the time bands that dress the part just blow. The Morlocks did not. “Emerge” is easily their high-water mark, and it’s a stone drag that the only other full-length LP they put out was a live record. We hate live records! (Though rumor has it that it was a fake live record – it sounded like dog dribblings nonetheless). I also don't care much for the GRAVEDIGGER 5, the loins from which the Morlocks sprang. But that's me. This guy Leighton, the lead Morlock, with bangs obscuring just about everything save his chin, was quite a mod/punk scene hero among the mod/punks I met around & after this time. I heard lots of Leighton drug and Leighton drinking stories -- in fact, the San Francisco house I moved into in 1989 was said to have been recently vacated by The Morlocks, who did in fact move to SF after this record to do more drugs and toughen their sound, as if that was possible. They died there as well -- figuratively -- and I never found out if Leighton was truly shagging birds in what later became my bedroom.

"Emerge" has some covers of 60s punk staples that stack up extremely well against the originals, and given that the originals -- MURPHY AND THE MOB 's "Born Loser", THE ESQUIRES ' "Judgement Day", "By My Side" by (I forget) -- are some of the most ferocious rock firebreathers ever, that's not half bad. But it's an original howler called "In The Cellar" that made this band's rep in 2 minutes flat -- an overmodulated, fuzz-filled catastrophe that goes way, way beyond "in the red" and into something very deep crimson. It's really ugly, and I mean that as the highest of praise. If you crossed some of the Japanese fuzz/noise bands of relatively recent vintage with, say, THE SONICS, you might get a sense of how boss this is. Hopefully someone will get busy and put this 8-song 12"EP onto a CD, and dig up any other hot Morlocks tracks that never made it out during this era. Hey, how about you?