No band has provided this reviewer with as much entertainment over the last 12 months as Morganway. With a live show that for most of it, sees the band a perpetual blur, where at any given time your eyes need to be looking in at least three different directions to where something vital is happening. Where each member plays a role both individually and as part of the collective overall sound. In many ways it is alluded to on the rather snazzy illusion cover of the new record where each band member can be seen individually clearly while at the same time are overlapping and entwining with the other members.
They're a band that has absorbed influences from so many areas to produce something quite unique, some of the songs may have the feel of Fleetwood Mac circa "Rumours", but listen to Kierans guitar playing and the likes of Peter Buck ( REM ) and Johnny Marr ( Smiths) occasionally seem to filter through or where SJ Mortimer's vocals that can veer to from tender and delicate to ferociously rocking. They are a band who pack more inventiveness into one song than many bands can manage to spread across a whole album and they are a band who deserve to be huge.
This album has therefore been hotly anticipated and it simply lives up to all of the expectation, with a mix of diamond clarity and just as precious, that lets each members contributions shine through, and the multiple part, backing vocals that are such a key element of their live shows have been captured to allow that live excitement to be incorporated into the recorded versions.
The album opens in a blistering fashion, with barely a chance to catch breath, and just never lets up, it's like a boxer reigning in blows on a defenceless opponent. The opener "My Love Ain't Gonna Save You", introduces one of the key combinations of the band, and that is how Kieran Morgan's guitar forms a twin attack with Nicole Terry's violin. At any given time, one or the other and quite often both will demand the listeners attention . One of the other combinations that works so well is the combination of Callum and SJ's vocals, with either happy on lead vocals or as on this song where effectively both are singing. It all adds to the variety in sound that the band can produce.
"Let Me Go", opens on another Kieran guitar riff, this time also driven by Ed Bullinger's rhythmic power drumming. With SJ Mortimer fronting the song with lead vocals of amazing power, supported by an array of backing vocals, this is something of a tour de force. There is so much packed in this four minutes, with enough hooks to fill a dozen songs, that is just breathtaking to listen to - the build up in intensity that accompany the final cries of "Let me go" take the song to a completely different level.
"You Can Only Die Once" the band jokingly say has the ring of a faux James Bond title about it, it certainly wears its Fleetwood Mac origins on its sleeve, but there is is far much to it than that. Once again the Kieran / Nicole partnership surfaces with the song peppered with inventive guitar lines throughout while the violin underpins the vocals in the chorus. With lyrics hinting at a life wasted "You're always looking back so you know where you are - it's a waste of time and you wont get far" - Ending on a scream and a crackle of guitar - this is truly electrifying stuff.
"In A Dream" (Coming Home) keeps up the tempo, though in a much more acoustic sounding number allowing the vocals even more room to shine. The first let up in pace comes with the first single from the album "Frozen In Our Time", but that proves to be short lived as the song may start quietly but soon expands out into something of an epic and challenges any preconceptions that you may have of this band as it veers off into an almost progressive rock direction. The keyboards and violin open the song giving an eerie atmosphere and backing for SJ to provide her vocals initially in an almost gentle manner yet as the song builds the her performance becomes ever more breathtaking finishing on an an almost heartbreaking refrain.
The 2 songs that more often than not close out Morganway live shows are nestled nicely together midway through the album, "London Life", an incessant irresistible dance tune backed against the sheer power of "Hurricane" are truly a force of nature! "London Life" details the perils of moving to the big city as a young family, and getting lost in all that it has to offer, where "the ones you love are the ones you hurt" . Delivered at a truly frenetic pace with Nicole's violin and Ed's drumming being the driving forces. From there "Hurricane" with its power chord opening and Matt's pounding piano notes always reminding me of early REM, while the combo of SJ's lead vocals and the power backing vocals elevate this into something truly special - having said that every member of the band has stand out moments on this one track alone.
"New Way" is in many way the closest that the band come to a standard pop song, having said that it is still effortless likable.and definitely still has Morganways fingerprints all over it, for even this relatively simple sounding song has lots of elements going on in it, just listen to the effort going on once again from the violin and guitar combination or the attention to detail in the vocals.
The back end of the album is perhaps less anthemic, yet shows more facets of the band that those who have only seen them in 7 or 8 song showcases may be unfamiliar with. "Daylight Rising" is the quietest tune on the whole album - a gentle keyboard opening leads to a song with a look backwards in time to "tides of breaking tears" and of "cold minds and Gatlin guns". As a message of hope the chorus says "There is no greater love than the daylight rising over land and sea". The multiple vocals this time become the gentlest of choirs under which plays the most delicate of violin lines.
"I See People" sees another coming together of multiple influences with a gloriously unusual chorus in which Nicole's violin takes the lead punctuated by Callum shouting "Hey!. "I Want No Other Love" closes the album as a duet of sorts with SJ taking the first verse while Callum takes the lead on the next one as we hear two different sides of a couple coming together. As with the rest of the album there is much going on, just listen to the effort that Kieran is putting in on the guitar work that is mainly muted way in the background or Ed's almost military drumming. Just to throw in one final bonus the song veers off into a completely different direction for the closing section, with the vocals and instrumentation building and swirling to a sudden conclusion.
Eleven songs that announce Morganway properly to the world as a powerful creative force, with an inventiveness and vitality that is a sheer joy to behold.