Don’t let the menacing gothic cover fool you – Morning Glory are a band with a whole lot more than double bass pedals and squealing guitar solos up their denim sleeveless jackets, as proved by their dramatic resurfacing in 2012 with the incredibly raw Poets Were My Heroes. Their latest album packs an intriguing mix of different genres into only 12 short songs – there are distinct elements of ska, metal, and even folk stuffed into the whole tartan-wrapped punk package that Morning Glory are well known for.
The first two songs are short and punchy and chock full of swears; just howgood punk songs should be. ‘Standard Issue’ has more balladic overtones which is a nice change, though Ezra Kire’s voice does seem to strain a little on some of these to the point where some of his scales and shouts seem grating. However when he reduces his pace and pitch for the slower verses and breakdowns, his vocals are much easier on the ear.
‘I Am Machine Gun’ is easily one of the best punk songs I have heard in the last couple of months. Early Gates’ staccato drumming ties in intricately with the scatty lyrics which mimic the machine gun in question, and the addition of brass and violins really give the song some musical depth and raise it high above most of the other songs on this album. In places the song seems to abruptly jump genres, however overall it does have a unique groove, with just the right amount of heaviness blended with melody. Likewise with ‘Nationality Anthem’, which sounds like vintage Green Day (Back before 21st Century Breakdown and their slow slide into mundanity); a ludicrously catchy chorus and lively drums make this song a real earworm. Channelling the traditional Maori intimidation tactic, the aggressive slapping and chanting from “War Haka” (which sounds like a more badass version of that stupid Cup Song) leads straight into the main event – the war dance. ‘War Dance’ is almost metal sounding at the beginning, with some really heavy riffs and droning vocals spiralling into rumbling tribal beats and topped off with a distorted apocalyptic radio voiceover from New York activist Peter Missing. These songs absolutely must be listened to together.
Next up is ‘Punx Not Dead I am’, and don’t be alarmed, your speakers aren’t malfunctioning, it’s just a tinny little bridge which leads into an emotionally-charged verse; “There’ll be more god’s hate, and religious war, there’ll be more causes that we must endure, but we keep calm and carry on”. A haunting guitar wail segues into ‘Karry On’ which seems to be the more melancholy shadow of the previous song – a sweet minute-long mournful poem. Ezra Kire’s soft voice really stands out here and you get the feeling that it has been previously underutilised on the more scream-filled songs. While ‘This Kool-Aid is Delicious’ was satisfactory, I personally didn’t find it as good as I was expecting from the amusing title; though there are some interesting synthy undertones throughout the verse, the feel in general was messy.
At 5 and ½ minutes, ‘Know Your Wrongs’ is the longest song on the entire album (that’s punk for you), and it offers some real variety compared to previous tracks. Starting with simplistic piano chords, chanting, rolling off-time snares, gritty guitars, the song snarls into an epic call-and-response type chorus which I imagine would be amazing performed live to a receptive crowd. The album closes with ‘Home Free’, a beautiful ballad of acoustic guitar, piano and vocal harmonies which have an almost folky feel, especially when the violin kicks in near the end. “Goodbye and Goodnight” feel like the album is saying farewell after what has been an erratic journey through various genres and emotions.
War Psalms is somewhat parabolic in nature in that it starts off averagely, rises to a fantastic peak of speed and emotion, and then falls back to run-of-the-mill. Die-hard fans of the band and of Ezra’s career will probably love every song, however for the casual listener only the handful of songs in the middle are worth listening to, as the rest seems a little stale.