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FAME Review: The Morlocks - Play Chess
The Morlocks - Play Chess

Play Chess

The Morlocks

Available from

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

To play off Twain, the 1999 Spin magazine rumor of lead singer Leighton Koizumi's death, and therefore the end of The Morlocks, was greatly exaggerated…unless he's appearing in all his now-zombified glory on this disc. And who knows? Our last president was one of the undead, so maybe Spin had it right after all. Nonetheless, Koizumi and crew decided to tributize a dozen of the old Chess label's best singles, and thus we have something along the lines of the Ramones' Acid Eaters, a down 'n grungy selection of elder goodies designed to drag the listener back into the swamp, there to git down with the gators, moonshiners, and full-moon oddities in a hard charging rock stomp.

There's a shitload of Iggy here, not to mention more than a little Brownsville Station, of course the aforementioned Ramones, and, every so often, the infamous Sky Saxon and his Seeds. And though the songs are rendered in a snotty Eff You atmosphere, I hafta admit they're very very cool, a glorification of three-chord mayhem designed to hit groin and limbic system like a flagon of mega Jolt Cola mixed with pineal secretions from various neanderthalic remnants copped from the Smithsonian. The boys aren't above a few smirking references either, which is why Help Me leads off in a My Generation riff repeating again in the close-out.

The promo disc didn't bother to credit the songs, so neither will I, but you should readily recognize most of 'em. They're classics and remain highly influential even to the present generation of composers. Besides, what self-respecting guitarist hasn't plundered the Bo Diddly / Yardbirds / Chuck Berry treasure trove? No one worth speaking of. What the Morlocks are doing is keeping the atmosphere in the 50s and 60s, the day when Manfred Mann, the Beau Brummels, the Box Tops, and everyone and his brother were stealing chords, leads, passages, and sometimes entire songs (hey, Jimmy Page, 'member them days, do ya?) to stuff their own materials into, roothogging, blissing out while slowly osmosing what would later transform into many other things. My favorite cut on this solid outing is Smokestack Lightning, a track rendered with surprising originality and something that would raise eyebrows on most any radio slot dedicated to the blues.

Track List:

  • I'm a Man
  • Help Me
  • Killing Floor
  • Smokestack Lightning
  • Who Do You Love
  • Boom Boom
  • Promised Land
  • Sitting on Top of the World
  • You Can Never Tell
  • Feel So Bad
  • You Can't Sit Down
  • Back in the USA

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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