The Murlocs have released their Bittersweet Demons on June 25th, on ATO Records and please do not feel weird about getting late to the party, it’s well worth the wait. The funny thing about this record is that it was on my list of albums to buy long before I received anything from the good people at pancakesandwhiskey.com.
The Murlocs journey started some ten years ago in Melbourne, Australia and features the line up of lead singer/guitarist/harmonica player Ambrose Kenny-Smith, guitarist Callum Shortal, drummer Matt Blach, bassist Cook Craig, keyboardist Tim Karmouche. Two members of the band are also in King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard (Kenny-Smith and Craig). Looking upon the instruments the The Murlocs play you might have noticed that Ambrose Kenny-Smith had harmonica player listed as a role. You probably are thinking that the harmonica is used sparingly, and on one or two of the songs featured on Bittersweet Demons. If you’re like me thinking that way you’d be mistaken. The soulful harmonic playing is prominent throughout the record and gives The Murlocs a different vibe from all the contemporary band out there.
The first called “Francesca” starts things up with a heartfelt grittiness that sets the tone for the entire record. As Kenny-Smith explains,
“The song is about my mother and how she had been lost for love since the separation from my father when I was 10. In the last year and a half or so she’s found love again, with a very close family friend of ours, someone who has always been a godfather and mentor to me in many ways.”
The song, and album as a whole, has a classic yet modern approach to it. In many ways the record would feel at home during the last New York rock movement that included bands like The Strokes, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It has an earthy, garage attitude, but not under produced where it sound like five guys playing incoherently. I could easily see The Murlocs on any modern college radio station as well as a station that plays a lot of classic alternative in the mix. I could be the harmonica parts, but I also sense a real Rolling Stones influence on these guys as well.
“Bittersweet Demons,” the song, starts with a cool piano intro with lyrics that explain a person that can be prone to heavy partying, and still eats healthy, and exercises a lot thinking that if the have a balance between the two everything else will work itself out. Like those folks that eat a big meal and have a diet beverage with it.
“Fall apart start again self-destruction it’s hard to shake
Come one with your bittersweet demons today”
“Eating At You” would be a real tough listen lyrically if it wasn’t for the bluesy vibe and the superb guitar work of Shortal that lightens up a heavy topic. “That song’s about a someone I’ve known a long time and, each time I see them, I’m amazed that they’re still alive,” says Kenny-Smith.
The band has so many sides that you never feel like you’ve heard it all before. The musical style change, so the record never gets boring. As in “No Self Control” gets laid back, and includes somewhat dark lyrics about, well, no self-control! You know, the things that can get you in trouble. A cautionary tale if you will.
The Murlocs do not just sing about darks thing in life. “Skyrocket,” “is a motivational speech for myself and to whomever can relate to this obsessive manifestation—a constant reminder to keep on rolling with the punches, despite the bumps in the road,” Kenny-Smith explains. The song is accentuated with an affirmation in Kenny-Smith’s voice as well as spirit raising music fitting for the uplifting lyrics.
My personal favorite track is “Skewhiff.” The word actually means something that is not positioned properly. So, the song is about knowing if something in life is not working, and move along from it. Or, at least that’s what I think. Your milage may vary.
The song is the most laid back The Murlocs get. I find myself thinking back to the Stones influence, but I also hear some Mother Love Bone in there too, when they do their slower songs like “Chole Dancer/Crown of Thorns.” That laid back atmosphere sticks around with “Limerence” a song about romantic obsession that becomes too strong that it pushes someone away.
This record is a breath of fresh air from all the music in which every song sounds like the one that came before it. Yes, some of the lyrics are dark and boarder on the obsessive parts of the brain, but it’s wrapped in a sweet candy coating, that you can rock and dance to all night long, and when the record is over, you’ll want to start it anew.
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Article: Carmine Basilicata
Cover Image: Shayne Hanley