August 2001
Off the Beaten Path : Reviews of the Uncommon and Exceptional

Off the Beaten Path : Reviews of the Uncommon and Exceptional

Pete Yorn: "musicforthemorningafter" (Sony/Columbia Records)


A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to catch a last minute CD Cover for musicforthemorningafter performance by Brit darlings, Coldplay, at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles. Coldplay was stellar as always, enthusiastically plying the crowd with their particular brand of pop majesty, but it was the opening act that really caught my attention. New Jersey native, Pete Yorn, nearly stole the show with his big hooks and understated lyrical prowess.

Yorn and his talented band showcased songs from his debut album entitled, “musicforthemorningafter”. When I spoke to a friend about the album he described it as, “Dinosaur Jr. meets the Replacements meets something else.” Not a surprising assessment considering that one of the album’s producers, Don Fleming, is known for his work with Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth among others. However, it’s unfair to describe “music…” as merely a derivation of previous records. From the moment track 1, “Life on a Chain” opens up like a scratchy ol’ 45 you recognize that Yorn’s sound is wholly his own. It’s clear that the album owes debts of gratitude to the everything-old-is-new-again roots rock sound as well as British pop. Yorn’s songwriting is reminiscent of Morrissey during the Smiths’ heyday or Michael Stipe at his spiritual zenith.

The opening song, “Life on a Chain”, and track 7, “Murray” channel Paul Westerberg, but Yorn’s roughly pleasant vocals and infectious drumming bring the music to a whole new level. On “music…” drums are not relegated to their usual role of musical wallpaper. Instead Yorn’s drumming works to tie his unique sound together. Perhaps, because he is a multi-instrumentalist (He played almost all the instruments on the album himself.) Yorn’s songs display a melodic balance between acoustic and electronically synthesized elements. The real strength of the album though is in Yorn’s lyrics and delivery. At times, plaintive, as on “EZ”, or gruff on “For Nancy (‘Cos it Already Is)”, Yorn’s voice pulls you in and wraps his emotions around you.

Despite the album’s low-fi vibe, production values are high. Several tracks on the CD were mixed by Brad Wood, who’s done excellent work with Liz Phair on both “whitechocolatespaceegg”, and her brilliant 1993 album, “Exile in Guyville”. Another noteworthy contributor to the production process for “music…” is Tom Lord-Alge. Lord-Alge has mixed some of my favorite albums (Best to admit my bias here!) from Sarah McLachlan and Hole to little known (but fantastic) artists like Leona Naess. Talent must run in the Lord-Alge family because brother Chris Lord-Alge, just mixed Stevie Nicks’ rocking new album, “Trouble in Shangri-La”. If you haven’t picked it up yet I highly recommend it. But I digress…

If your idea of a good time musically is catchy choruses with big hooks, clever and introspective lyrics, evocative vocals, and truly brilliant pop songs with a slightly British/roots rock feel, look no further. “musicforthemorningafter” is the album you’ve been waiting for. Pete Yorn won’t save music from the continued onslaught of manufactured boy-toy bands and power pop princesses. He might not crack Soundscan’s top 40, but his music stands as testament to why great pop never goes out of fashion. And somehow, I don’t think Pete cares whether or not he gets to be on TRL with Carson Daly. He knows he’s got a winner in “musicforthemorningafter”. Hey, Pete! Give yourself a pat on the back, buddy – the album rocks! ‘Nuff said.

Look for Pete Yorn’s debut album, “musicforthemorningafter”, wherever you buy CDs. For those readers in close proximity to a Best Buy, here’s a tip – “musicforthemorningafter” has been picked as a Best Buy “Find Them Here First” CD, so you can probably get the disc for less than ten bucks. Money saving tips from your pal, Daos. Don’t pass this CD up. It’s an instant classic. If you are a fan of lyric-driven catchy pop you won’t be disappointed, but don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself.