New OKC band battles the darkness with bright, infectiously playful indie pop/rock on debut single.
It isn’t that Bradley Morris is deceptive in his songwriting, tucking away dark concepts inside sunny guitar riffs and upbeat indie rock arrangements. After all, the mischief in his vocal melodies, atypical in structure yet endlessly catchy, already directs a knowing wink to the irony in his artistic process. No, these are songs that tend to start in all seriousness but are then transformed through music into playful, lighthearted banter. In this way, he takes back some of the power stolen by the demons in the night.
Blue Morrison is the new coffee pot that has been energizing his songwriting into new full-band rock songs, and it has been brewing for a while. Featuring well-versed musicians like Alex Larrea (Deerpeople), it fills the void left by the disbanding of Bad Jokes, a prior Morris project that earned a spot in this blog’s top 10 songs of 2018 for its playful take on the delightful and the disturbing. This time around, Morris seems to want to hit the ground running and make more than a lasting impression. This looks to be the permanent banner for his solo-leaning work going forward, and the intent with which he has been rolling out new music has been methodical.
Prior to today, which marks the band’s first widely released single, there were a couple of demos quietly uploaded onto Blue Morrison’s official Soundcloud stream, and even those are well-assembled. They show the evolution of a single song called “Benny Can’t Hack It” over the course of a couple of revisions, showing seams in the production process but never pulling at them.
Now, “Paul & The Devil” formally introduces the world to Blue Morrison, and you can stream it here in this Make Oklahoma Weirder track premiere.
As its cartoon-inspired cover art suggests, “Paul & The Devil” is a fun time. With chipper guitar, bass, and drums, it pops right out of the box with Morris delivering the light touch of his upper register punctuated with his trademark intermittent bite. Tamborine rattles here and there while hand claps toy with the song’s syncopation. Occasionally, the 4/4 time signature will cut a phrase short, underlining the way this track dances side to side, staying on its toes in a boxing match with its demons.
There is a plot in the lyrics to “Paul & The Devil”. While Morris’s stylized vocals tend to blur them — the chorus’s “Who was with you?” is particularly slippery — they observe the result of one man’s private battle with some sort of evil. It may literally be a man fighting the devil, or it may be a metaphor for a plague or vice that hammers at him day after day. The song is told through the eyes of a neighbor who interacts with him in the aftermath but never witnesses the bouts themselves. Consequently, neither does the listener of “Paul & The Devil”.
In its latter half, the track falls into a slower tempo segued by reversed tamborine and a stereo effect resembling the pitter-patter of light rainfall. There is a tragic development here that, again, a surface listen may not reveal. As a hint, consider that the final line is not Morris recounting a handshake. No, his protagonist’s hands are literally shaking.
This may be the most forthcoming Morris has been with the darkness in his songwriting, even as “Paul & The Devil” wraps by picking the tempo back up and throwing a final punch. Like other Oklahomans this year such as Chelsea Days and Husbands, Blue Morrison proves that serious topics can be extremely fun when given the right treatment. Feeling bad never felt so good.
aka Jarvix, the Chief Executive Weirdo of Make Oklahoma Weirder. His out-of-the-box music coverage has been published by the Oklahoma Gazette, KOSU, and The Oklahoman among others. He also makes DIY music as a solo multi-instrumentalist live looper in his spare time.