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Mark Morriss - 'Look Up' Album Review


1. Adventures

2. Roll Away

3. All The Wrong People

4. Holiday Of A Lifetime

5. Poor Me

6. Cowboy Juice

7. But, Still...

8. Rimini

9. All You Talk About

10. The Beans

11. Mother Moon

I’m the sort of person who would hit snooze all day long if given the opportunity. When my alarm goes off first thing in the morning, I have the (admittedly mistaken) belief that an extra five minutes will make all the difference. When I’m rudely awoken five minutes later, I’m sure that the next five minutes will definitely be the ones to sort me out, and I’ll be ready to face the world. Eventually, after several failed attempts to revive my exhausted body with just a little more sleep, I drag myself out of bed and begin my morning rituals (I won’t expose you to the details, a man needs to retain a little mystique). Of course, if I just set my alarm for twenty minutes later, it would allow me to gain an extra twenty minutes of real rest, rather than the broken snippets that my snooze addiction allows me. I’ve always been interested in the idea of one of these light alarm clocks, that gradually eases you into the world of wakefulness, rather than shakes you out of bed with recurring beeps, or melodies, or whatever, but I suppose my addiction won’t allow me. Either that, or I’m too lazy to replace my trusty radio alarm.

Mark Morriss’s ‘Look Up’ begins with the most gentle wake up I think I’ve ever experienced on a record, in album opener, ‘Adventures’. A soft whirling breeze, haunting glissandos sliding into your subconscious, a gentle (almost unnoticeable) beat that comes in around the 30 second mark, and by the time the brass enters the fray, the song is almost a minute and a half old, and you’re ready to face the world. The introduction is so gentle, that even the lead vocal doesn’t even come in until almost half way through the song, with Mark’s voice initially appearing amongst the backing, adding to that dreamlike feeling. Next up, is ‘Roll Away’, an out and out Folk song, its got modern bells and whistles in the effects (not literally, that would be weird) but it’s pure Folk. The juxtaposition of styles in the first two songs tells the story of the album in a lot of ways; it’s a strange, yet not uneasy mix throughout, that leads us round so many corners we come full circle several times over, leaving the listener dizzy perhaps, but utterly enthralled.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that, although I’m familiar with Mark’s other job (lead singer with The Bluetones), this has been my first introduction to his solo work, despite it being his fourth LP, and him being an incredibly prolific live artist. As such, I had a preconception of what to expect, and whilst ‘Look Up’ isn’t what I expected (clue, it’s so much better), there are hints of the songwriting style that initially brought him to the public conscience back in the heady days of Britpop, particularly in penultimate track and single, ‘Beans’ as well as third track, ‘All The Wrong People’. Staccato, bouncy guitar and an upbeat melody, this wouldn’t sound out of place on a mid-90s album; some may sneer at that description, but rest assured that I’m not doing it any justice whatsoever. Yet another gear change brings the single ‘Holiday Of A Lifetime’, a wistful paean to enduring the daily grind in order to spend two weeks in the sun; “survive today / cos soon you’ll be going away”. Calypso beats and wah wah pedals aplenty, Mark brings the sun to the party, transporting us to that dream location, and it seems that escape and travelling is a theme that binds many of the tracks on the album, not least in the musical journey (does that really sound as wanky as I think it does?) that Morriss has undertaken in producing this record. Instrumental ‘Cowboy Juice’ has a wonderfully epic sound, an almost sci-fi take on spaghetti western music, and is that a theremin I can hear there? It sounds absolutely mental and, in a lot of ways it is, but my god it is beautiful.

The temptation is strong to talk you through this wonderful record track by track, but I worry that I might lose you, and that would be a tragedy. Also, I really really want you to search this out and discover it for yourself, to be led through this labyrinth of sound, to get lost in it and emerge discombobulated, but totally in love. It would be remiss of me however, not to mention the closing track, ‘Mother Moon’. A mystical title, and an enchanting song, every bit as ethereal and beguiling as Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra at their best, with an unreasonably satisfying chorus.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned how much I love this record, does that come across? I hope so, because if you love it half as much as me, you are in for a treat.

Review - Jon Stokes

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