Gimme Your Love – Morcheeba
Head Up High
48.12 min • Pias • October 14, 2013
Little Bastard reviews
Cassettes. A wonderful thing, weren’t they? To a certain extent they were the vinyl of my generation, and I can still remember the influential albums I had on cassette. One of them was Who Can You Trust by Morcheeba, the debut album by the most underrated group to come out of the trip-hop movement in the early ’90s. If I remember rightly, I bought it after hearing ‘Tape Loop’ (which I obviously adored) and promptly became obsessed with Skye Edwards and her soulful ambient purr. Who Can You Trust made a modest splash when it was released, but it wasn’t until the bands second album Big Calm came out that they truly hit their trip-pop stride, and had bonafide hits, like ‘Part Of The Process’ and ‘The Sea’. (By bonafide hits, I mean songs even my Mum knows.) And like any good band, once they started there was no stopping them, and third album Fragments Of Freedom saw the bands biggest commercial success, but left them criticised for ditching their trip hop roots for a pop MOR sound (I don’t know why people were surprised, what did they think the “mor” in “morcheeba” stood for?!). Since the height of their fame, singer Skye has left the band and rejoined, and this is their first material together since 2010’s Blood Like Lemonade. So, in a climate of ’90s bands reuniting left, right and centre, how does Morcheeba’s latest album fare in relation to their previous output?
When bands have a strong back catalogue, as Morcheeba do, new material, however good, can be somewhat underwhelming. However interesting, well written or produced a new album can be, there’s no way it can stand up to the hits of the past, the songs that contain your memories and your love for the nostalgia the songs make you feel. It’s not that new material does match up to the old – in many cases it’s actually better, but we have so much attached to the music of our past that it can be difficult to look at a bands new output objectively. So, what I’m about to say may come across as slightly controversial … but opening track and lead single ‘Gimme Your Love’ is, hands down, the best thing they have ever released. Yes, better than ‘Trigger Hippy’. Yes, better than ‘Part Of The Process’. With its hip hop beat, distorted bass and copious amounts of scratching, over the catchiest melody I’ve heard from the band in years, it’s perfection from start to finish.
Part of the reason it’s so great is it manages to capture everything that is so brilliant about the best of Morcheeba’s work all in one track. It’s simultaneously manages to feel dark, edgy, commercial, radio friendly, catchy and like an instant but effortless anthem all at the same time. When I see them live, THIS is the song I will be excited about hearing, forget the hits. Opening with ‘Gimme Your Love’ was a brave move. I mean, how could the rest of the album hold it’s own next to such an amazing track? The answer is, it doesn’t quite … nothing could. But, it’s pretty damn close.
So, once ‘Gimme Your Love’ was off repeat, I fell in love with ‘Face Of Danger’. Another future Morcheeba classic, with a chorus about “laughing in the face of danger”, the guitar is intoxicating, and the song contains one of my favourite lines on the album,
Where is the intelligence that comes with age?
There’s such a strong beat to ‘Face Of Danger’ that it almost reminds me of Moloko (I know, I’ll wash my mouth out) but wonderfully executed, it’s impossible for me not to dance around like a loon. ‘Call It Love’ has a sexy blues grind that oozes striptease sensuality, but the next thing to really trap me is ‘Under The Ice’, with it’s haunting instrumentation and
You were my only love,
Now you’re gone …
I’m undone –
It’s a beautifully delicate song that haunts me long after it’s finished.
The bass on ‘Make Believer’ is almost orgasmic, dropping in and out at just the right points to help edge your ears to climax, and it’s a track that really has an early Morcheeba vibe. And the early trip hop vibe seems to be a recurring theme, the domestic drug use in the rap of ‘To Be’ being a prime example, the music mostly lying between a more developed version of their debut and on tracks such as ‘Release Me Now’ and ‘Do You Good’, echo the slightly clubbier vibe present earlier in the album. Apart from ‘Gimme Your Love’, I find it impossible to single anything out. Each track is as good as the last, and the chilled beauty of ‘Finally Found You’, the closing track, is a Morcheeba classic. Sounding like “Pop Morcheeba” filtered through their old trip hop vision, it reminds me a lot of Big Calm, but easily surpasses the majority of that album, and it’s the best closer I could wish for.
Head Up High (the name taken from the lyrics aforementioned ‘Release Me Now’) is as aptly named album, as it’s one the crew should be extremely proud of. Intricate production, powerhouse songwriting and all topped with Skye’s vocals sounding better than they ever have. I refuse to use the phrase “return to form” for a band that rarely disappoint, but with this album Morcheeba have outdone themselves. Anyone that gave up on them when they released their Mum had a copy of Fragments Of Freedom is safe – Morcheeba are cool again.
This is definitely a city album, for people who flatshared in the ’90s while smoking too much weed. The people who watched This Life, listened to Portishead and pretended to be responsible adults whilst trying not to grow up. Head Up High is the sound of 3’s being the new 20s, and its hit me just at the right time. Now to dig out my copy of Who Can You Trust…