Released: July 2015
Continuing his solo career outside of the recently reformed Bluetones, former Britpop outsider Mark Morriss emerges with this, The Taste of Mark Morriss, his third LP. It is an engaging mix of retro blues ballads and dramatic modern indie soundbites, with Morriss displaying an eclectic range of influences on this assured and sophisticated record.
“This pullover that you gave to me / I’ll keep on wearing ‘til eternity” Morriss sings on opening track This Pullover. It sets a precedent of charming lyricism and fun romantic hooks that remains throughout much of the record. There is little in the way of meaning or consequence in terms of the music’s poetry, but Morriss isn’t aiming for that in the slightest: this is fun indie pop with the odd sprinkling of ‘50s melodicism.
Elsewhere on the record lies a lingering darkness that occasionally makes appearances on dramatic rock tracks such as Self Control and Angel. On the former Morriss displays the edginess and melodrama of his ‘90s contemporary Noel Gallagher, the epic guitar solo and general grandiosity of the track sounding very much like the High Flying Birds at their best. It’s this sophisticated yet knowingly silly approach that sets the record apart from other overly sincere mid-solo career albums, and Angel proves this further, blending gritty guitars with fun ‘80s wobbling synth sounds to create a distinct vibe that rings throughout the record.
It’s a nice enough sound, but there are some moments where style seems to gain priority over substance. Tracks like Souvenir, Almost Gold and Don’t Let Go tend to bumble along amicably but don’t really go anywhere. They’re not offensive by any means but there is little to get excited about as the album plods on, feeling a bit like an EP with some great ideas stretched to the length of a full studio album. It must be noted that for the most part this isn’t the case, but the same idea being spread across several tracks can be utterly consuming, tarring an otherwise interesting record.
Morriss’ voice is used to a sweet melody, and when he tries to attack some songs to match the drama of their instrumental arrangements it doesn’t quite achieve the conviction desired. However, the colourful ballads that also characterise a large chunk of the album lend themselves perfectly to his tones, very much making The Taste of Mark Morriss a record of two halves.
An odd mix of retro melodic ballads and stomping, epic numbers very much makes for one hell of a bi-polar album. The Taste of Mark Morriss is the 43 year-old’s third solo outing and, though it is a fun record, one worries that this far into his career he is starting to run out of things to say. That’s not to suggest that this album is without its draws though; chirpy guitars, orchestral arrangements and the odd progressive synth sound provide enough intrigue to make this well worth a listen or two.