40 Watt Club, Athens GA • March 22, 1999
Note to self: Never see a show in a college town when school is in session, particularly when the band relies so much on mood, as Morphine does. Kinda hard to get into the proper frame of mind for the seductive, smothering intensity of the trio’s sound when some draft-beer-fueled dingbat blonde is yattering away in front of me non-stop. I understand that you live in Coolville, USA, and get to see about 15 bands a week just walking across the street from your dorm, but I drove 60 miles to see this show.
Oh, never mind. Morphine kicked. Either you find two-string slide bass, baritone sax, and drums played in a hungover, waiting-for-the-man, smoky three o’clock bar style great, or you don’t. No middle ground here. Drawing material from all four of their albums, Morphine brought their Beantown Bossa Nova to Georgia, and for a moment, no other music existed. Frontman, songwriter, and bassist Mark Sandman (great name for someone in a band like this, don’t ya think?) careened around the stage, tossing his dadaist lyrics (“On 6-6-66, I was little, I didn’t know shit/ and by 9-9-99, I hope I’m sittin’ on the back porch drinkin’ red wine, singing Ohhhhh French Fries with Pepper”), and generally jacked the tension level up and up with sly, teasing bass patterns and piercing stares at the crowd, who were in the palm of his hand from the opening moment the band appeared onstage. Saxman Dana Colley was stoic and filled the room with a pulsing, growling presence, the bedrock of Morphine’s sound. The band is touring with both of their drummers — original stickman, Jerome Dupree, who recorded up until part way through Cure for Pain , and his replacement, Billy Conway. Sorta strange, but it worked.
It’s quite possible that you have never known you were listening to Morphine — their records don’t exactly fly out of the stores, they have only had one song that got played on the radio ( Cure for Pain ‘s “Thursday”), but I bet you’ve heard them, as they are popular in movie soundtracks, like Spanking The Monkey , and others. Once you’ve heard them, however, you don’t forget it, and you find yourself in the dark, with a few candles and a red wine buzz, entertaining thoughts of sexual legend. This is about the most seductive music you’ll ever hear. Even with a trust-fund nitwit blathering in your face.