Friday, January 28, 2011

Pete Yorn: Musicforthemorningafter

Once college alternative stopped being either, it became harder to pigeonhole different bands by a catch-all label. So how can we describe Pete Yorn, a handsome singer-songwriter from New Jersey who doesn’t overtly sound like Bruce Springsteen (or John Bongiovi, for that matter)? It might be mainstream rock, if that existed anymore. He’s not whiny or histrionic enough to be considered emo. In another time he might have been considered to be folk-rock, with a pendulum that swings pretty deep into either camp.
Whatever you want to call him, there’s no denying that Musicforthemorningafter, his debut album, is damn catchy. Largely a one-man band affair, it was recorded with a handful of friends swapping the guitars, basses, drums and keyboards, but without sounding like a homemade job. Real drums mix with programmed sounds for a full spectrum of sound, and each of the tracks is as unique as the typefaces used for the lyrics of each of the songs.
The first three tracks alone deliver a solid beginning: the chugging “Life On A Chain”, “Strange Condition”, which goes through an early key modulation without rushing, and “Just Another” with its achy chorus guaranteed to make the girls swoon. Among the other highlights are the woozy “Lose You”, “On Your Side” (popular for scene changes on any number of MTV reality shows) and the closing “Simonize”, which manages to channel the ghost of Chris Bell, predicting his cover of “I Am The Cosmos” by eight years.
And those are the best ones—we haven’t even mentioned “Murray” or “For Nancy (‘Cos It Already Is)” or “June”. All the tunes are toe-tappingly memorable, with lyrics alternately obtuse and direct, so that to best demonstrate the appeal of this album, you’ll most likely reach for the play button once the silence kicks in at the CD’s end. But of course, there’s a hidden track, so if you’re not careful you could miss it. Or not.
As good as Musicforthemorningafter is, it’s possible he put all his best eggs in that first basket. 2003’s Day I Forgot had its moments, but the third part of the so-called trilogy, Nightcrawler, had nothing to offer outside a faithful cover of Warren Zevon’s “Splendid Isolation”. His next two albums have been largely ignored in favor of the collaboration with Scarlett Johansson, who’s a lot easier on the eyes than she is the ears.
A 10th Anniversary Edition of Musicforthemorningafter was released in 2011, with a second disc full of a radio performance and some rarities. But as long as the original can be found in your local used CD bin, there’s really no need to go all out.

Pete Yorn Musicforthemorningafter (2001)—4

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