The art of naming bands has been a mysterious and enigmatic talent since four young Liverpudlians made a musical pun on an insect and rose to superstardom. Like the world of graphic design, naming bands can seem easy, but is really only meant for a specific few with aptitude for the task. For instance, in sixth grade, I had a friend who thought that `Burnt Toast’ was the best band name of which he had ever thought. Not that I find myself any better, but a coworker and I came up recently with the name Umlaut, but the catch is, every letter would have an umlaut! How ‘meta’ is that? Anyway, this is where Morningwood steps in. The seemingly flowery name unsuccessfully, and intentionally so, hides the reference to a masculine routine affliction in a combination word that could also pose as the moniker for a ritzy neighborhood or English heath. The name is not only clever, but perfectly fits the sound and attitude of the New York band that uses it. Led by 23 year-old sexpot Chantal Claret, Morningwood is a pulsating ball of sexual energy, capturing the original spirit of what truly is `rock and roll.’ To paraphrase T. Rex, she’s `dirty, sweet and she’s our girl.’
Claret is such a presence in Morningwood, that she easily makes one forget that the band she fronts is somewhat of a who’s who gallery of a supergroup. Richard Steel hails from glam rock band Spacehog, Pedro (or Peter as he once went) Yanowitz is an alumnus from Jakob Dylan project, the Wallflowers, and Japa Keenen O once played with Japanese electro-lounge meets punk act Cibo Matto. While these three gents lay a more than adequate groundwork of punky rhythms and keyboard flavored new wave, the show is entirely Chantal’s. She glides from sassy growls to coy whispers with ease, seducing and intimidating at alternate turns. As if to solidify the cliché that every man wants a good girl in public and a slut between the sheets, Claret exudes bubblegum sweetness and aggressive sexuality within seconds of each other. This is exactly the kind of trashy fun we need to kick off the New Year. We’ll have enough seriousness to discuss when the elections roll around in November.
Opener “Nü Rock,” employing that umlaut that I love ever so much, is a pure Stooges pastiche, with Claret singing lines that sound as if the Ig-ster had a sex change. “Hey little pretty with the tattooed skin,” flows out of her vocal chords like “Look out honey cause I’m using technology.” “Nth Degree” is the catchiest song I’ve heard in recent months and is sure to be a rousing opening anthem for the band at live shows with the spelling of the band’s name taking a pivotal role, acting as both an introduction to the party sound and a celebration of their style. The song recalls some of the underrated work of Echobelly. “Jetsetter” used to be called “Jetsettermusicletter” in previous EP releases, but the name change didn’t affect the potency of this possible potential single, save for one shouted profanity. “Take Off Your Clothes” and “Babysitter” need no explanation as you can probably imagine, while “New York Girls” celebrates the diversity of the band’s home city.
Producer Gil Norton accomplished the same amazing feat he has performed again and again, channeling the raw energy and power of a band, giving it the slightest sheen of accessibility while still retaining its dangerousness, having done the same with the Pixies and the Foo Fighters. Morningwood has one of those unique origin stories with Chantal Claret taking the mic at a party for Sean Lennon and letting it rip, finding Yanowitz in the process, beginning the germination of what would be the ultimate supergroup result.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Fever to Tell
The Divinyls- The Divinyls