Morale’s Left for Dead fits squarely into recent years’ outpouring of 90s worshipping, fuzz pedal abusing guitar bands. Bands like Nothing, Yuck, Speedy Ortiz and Ontario’s Chastity, have all found varying levels of success updating and tinkering with the loud/quiet/loud dynamics and walls of guitar feedback that define 90s indie rock. With this new EP, Morale seems content to avoid said kind of tinkering and instead chooses to proudly wear their influences on their sleeves.
It feels almost impossible to discuss the Left for Dead EP without somehow mentioning Nirvana. From the cover art (which is essentially a direct nod to the cover of Nirvana’s seminal Nevermind) to the guitar tone of vocalist and guitarist Simon Harvey, it can sometimes feel as if Kurt, Dave, and Krist left these songs on the cutting room floor of In Utero.
With that said, Harvey, along with bassist Josh Manley and drummer Toby Lane, still manage to keep the four tracks from ever feeling tiresome even during their most blatant swipes from other bands. Manley’s bass keeps things tight and Lane’s drums are punchy, together managing to create a sense of chugging ferocity on the chorus of closing track, “Wasted.” The length also certainly keeps the EP from feeling too overwhelmingly repetitive, clocking in at around 15 minutes.
With Left for Dead, little in terms of influence is left up to the imagination. The music of bands like Failure, Mudhoney and of course, Nirvana, are all practically etched into the EP’s sound and every massive chorus of scuzzy power chords gradually erodes the distinction between ‘inspired by’ and ‘ripping off.’ With that said, Morale is clearly a talented group with a good ear for production and when they do ease themselves out of their grunge sensibilities it pays off. Opening track “Hold Me Down” satisfyingly edges into the realms of metalcore and hardcore for its final moments. Meanwhile EP highlight “Mirrors” is a churning, massive-sounding exercise in Steve Albini-esque noise rock.
Ultimately, Morale’s newest release isn’t reinventing the wheel but it also isn’t trying to. What the group lacks in innovation they make up for with energy, sharp production and the occasional glimmer of other sounds they could perhaps embrace in the future.
Written by Alex Ramsay
*edited by Danielle Kenedy