Morningwood, 'Morningwood' (Capitol)

5
Morningwood
Critical Mass
Label: Capitol

by Keith Harris

Chantal Claret has a message for all the "little kids who love the rock'n'roll" out there, with their tattoos and effed-up haircuts: "You sure got the style, but you ain't got the soul." Funny thing is, said dilettantes have probably already sung along with those lyrics at a Morningwood show, posted an MP3 of the group's album opener, "Nü Rock," on their blogs, or, hell, made out with a member of the band. Indeed, Morningwood emerge from the most hyper-hyped depths of New York scenedom; Claret met bassist and songwriting partner Pedro Yanowitz at Sean Lennon's birthday party, for cripe's sake. Takes one to know one.

Okay, we'll play fair: Morningwood's not all style. Their gutsy spirit, while not "soul" exactly, does allow the band to dodge flippant dismissals of poseurhood. And catchy tuneage prevails. Gil Norton, who helped Foo Fighters straddle the rock line between alt and nü, mercilessly compresses the guitars into a buzz that's practically an ironic commentary on the verb to rock, and Pixies fans will recall that clean bass sound from the producer's work on Doolittle. If Morningwood lack anything, it's...well, not quite smarts, not quite savvy -- call it the sixth sense to manipulate the junk-pop imagery that transforms flashy New York trend jockeys into Debbie Harry, David Johansen, Madonna, or Karen O.

But all is not lost. A self-aware glamourpuss on the meaty side, Claret may have the potential to develop just that knack. On "Take Off Your Clothes," which regularly instigates audience strip-alongs, the singer splits her personality into both big-tease murmuring ("I know, baby, you're frustrated / But I'd like it if we waited") and lust-hound hollering (the song title). Her persona's still in the experimental phase, unsure of whether to favor the sultry pedophilia of "Babysitter" or the up-with-people cheer of "Everybody Rules" (hey, thanks!). But when she winningly spells out her band's name on "Nth Degree," suggesting with just the right amount of cutesiness that the world can all bunk in "one big bed," it's clear that her heart's in the right place -- right below her cleavage.

See also: Elastica, Elastica (Geffen, 1995)

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