Saturday, November 17, 2012

36 Songs, 36 Days (2012 Edition), Day Thirty Two: Murder For The Money by Morphine

Yes, they're dwelling in darkness...and that's totally appropriate.
This week, as we rapidly approach the end of this year's cycle and begin the special Seasonal's one of my favorite avant garde bands.

I sadly got into Morphine at the end of this band's life. A number of my horror writer friends had recommended this Massachusetts-based group for its dark soundscapes and the quirky lyrics of vocalist Mark Sandman. Based on these recommendations I picked up their latest album, The Night--just days before Sandman collapsed on stage in Italy and died. I was so entranced by the weird mix of film noir crime stories, swinging 50's orchestration and sometimes moody as all Hell gothic sensibilities that I ended up determined to discover their entire ouvre. Luckily, the legendary jazz music store J&M down on Park Place had a rather massive Rykodisc sale that allowed me to pick up the bulk of their albums, and they're still treasured items in my collection.

It's hard to describe Morphine to someone who has never heard them. This was all going on during the time when I was a freelancer. One of my last jobs as a freelancer, and one of my favorite overall due to the rapport I had with my client, was at a financial reporting firm located in the World Trade Center. I was working late one night to help close out some outstanding accounts when my client came over to where I was set up. I had Like Swimming, the album from which this track comes from, on my Discman. He listened for a second and chuckled to himself before saying, "What are you listening to, Tom? It sounds like jazz for serial killers." Another descriptor came several years later from Jennifer, a girl I was engaged to, who dismissed it as 'stripper music for hipsters'...and then proceeded not to talk to me because obviously I liked thinking of strippers.

It's both and it's neither. Take this song. It's certainly in the crime novel sensibilities of Sandman and company, and yet it's not telling a complete story. There's something larger on Sandman's mind, and he's reducing it to its lowest common demoninator. I can't help but think that what's 'murder' in this song is life itself--to the singer, life itself is pain, it's horror, it's...murder every single moment of the day, every inch that you move forward. It's a slow slog that will not let up, and it will always, always hurt. And while Sandman may have avoided the ultimate termination of this perpetual Hell, he's seen enough people felled to know that it's a matter of time for him to fold.

Members of Morphine still perform sporadically as...well, The Members of Morphine. And to the best of my knowledge, all these albums are still out there, floating around, waiting for another poor sap with a passion for darker matters to discover them when he least expects it.

Here's a video....

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