CD Review: Gurf Morlix – Finds the Present Tense (Rootball, 2013)
After an album of Blaze Foley covers in 2011, singer-songwriter Gurf Morlix returns to his catalog of forbidding originals. The album’s title provides a clever play on words, suggesting a man catching up to the moment only to find that moment overbearing. The title track focuses on immediate burdens, but Morlix also finds overwhelming baggage in a future lashed inextricably to the consequences of past actions. Morlix’s characters are left stranded at a turning point between decisions and their lifelong consequences. The prisoner of “My Life’s Been Taken” ruminates on his confinement, resigned to a life of wondering what could have been. The song provides a coda to 2009’s “One More Second,” in which a shooter considers the thin line between reaction and action; here the killer is doomed to reconsider that border until his life ends.
The tiny portal of “Small Window” frames an emotional impediment with a physical metaphor, and the imagery of “Series of Closin’ Doors” takes on a nightmarish cast when scored with languid guitar, atmospheric B3 and a hypnotic beat. Morlix often pairs dark lyrics with misleadingly neutral or bright melodies, and his understated vocals leave each song’s message to sneak up on the listener. His critique of American gun culture, “Bang Bang Bang,” begins with happy memories of Roy Rogers before decrying our modern-day barrage of bullets, and even the love song “Gasoline” draws on a fiery metaphor that aligns with the album’s premise of inescapable aftermath. Morlix exhales his lyrics more than he sings them, which fits well to songs that shrug at seemingly immutable futures.