MARCH 12, 2015
Two years ago, Gurf Morlix’s Finds the Present Tense, found the singer-songwriter contending with noir-like inevitability and consequences. His protagonists were hung-up in the here-and-now, at intersections whose resolutions were one-way streets to the future. His new collection shifts the timeframe, looking back at a gritty childhood whose future was surprisingly open-ended. Unlike the fixed destinies of his fictional protagonists, Morlix’s own future was not set in stone by earlier events. The disappointments of “50 Years” yields surprises, and the smoke-filled air of “Born in Lackawana” didn’t obscure the choice between life in the steel mill and roads that led out of town. Morlix’s nostalgia is colored by the melancholy of time, and the distortions of his rear-view mirror leaves the temptations of “Dirty Old Buffalo” barely visible beneath the city’s newly polished exterior.
Morlix’s gruff tone and deliberate tempos are a piece with his songs of despondency, loneliness and exhaustion. But these emotional crucibles also produce resolve, such as that underpinning “Grab the Wheel,” and lifelines that remain visible in even the darkest of places. Redemption isn’t always at hand, however, and self-awareness isn’t necessarily a saving grace; some setbacks can only be moderated, and invitations, such as the bar in “Elephant’s Graveyard,” can turn out to be a trap. Morlix picks at the details of missed opportunities as if they’re a scab protecting healing flesh; but at the same time he’s searching for kernels of truth, such as found in a canine’s view of “A Dog’s Life,” or penetrating human insights, as essayed in the closing “Blue Smoke.” The search may be eatin’ at him, but it’s a fulfilling emotional and intellectual meal. [©2015 Hyperbolium]