Cure For Pain

Morphine

1993: Rykodisc RCD 10262


  1. Dawna
  2. Buena
  3. I’m Free Now
  4. All Wrong
  5. Candy
  6. A Head With Wings
  7. In Spite of Me
  8. Thursday
  9. Cure For Pain
  10. Mary Won’t You Call My Name?
  11. Let’s Take a Trip Together
  12. Sheila
  13. Miles Davis’s Funeral

Baritone saxophones have one of the most sexually charged sounds I’ve ever heard, and the fact that Dana Colley’s sax line on the more-or-less chorus of “I’m Free Now” (and elsewhere) fuses almost indistinguishably with Mark Sandman’s vocal moan should set off alarm bells in me and tells you a bit both about my tastes and about the level of sensuosity and emotional evocation Morphine were capable of. The tight, clean, simplicity of the combo—drums, baritone sax, bass, and voice—provided a vehicle for a surprisingly broad range of expression (although it wasn’t a very diverse range, strictly speaking, living largely in a dark-and-dirty territory which I’m pretty sure Lou Reed solidified before they got there).

The band’s combination of tightness and looseness gives it a special appeal, for me anyway: the tempo of any given song shifts naturally in response to the emotions being plumbed, there’s no question of drum-machine programming or any metronomic guide most of the time, and that bears its finest fruit on tracks such as “All Wrong” (it sags when it should sag and barrels ahead when it should barrel ahead, for example, all the while juxtaposing swagger and nihilism quite gorgeously).

Overall the word “dark” is virtually inevitable in describing this album and its individual tracks, but that darkness ranges from the isolated lighting of a late-night bar to a purely internal darkness of the mind (or soul, or heart); sometimes the darkness is that of night made darker by the presence of lighted areas, and sometimes it’s that of the shadows of emptiness or loss which imply sorrow. Even the playful aspects here (“A Head With Wings” and aspects of “Buena,” for example) carry overtones (if not direct connotations) of drug addiction and aggression. “Sheila” is a heady mix of those extremes as well, mixing an intimate depiction with a mighty world of night darkness and ecstatic captivation, all drawled with that gravel-edged weariness Sandman gushes into it.

This is an album I can’t imagine listening to in broad daylight (unless I were a drug user, which I’m not): it’s definitely midnight-to-5:00-a.m. material, like the inner monologue of a more-addicted cousin of The Doors heard from the inside in the darkly brilliant patches between their trips’ peaks…and “Let’s Take a Trip Together” provides probably the purest example of that impression.


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