Songs We Love: Glenn Morrow's Cry For Help, 'The Days To Come'
For a guy with a luminous past, Glenn Morrow sounds firmly fixated on the future on this tune from his first album in 28 years. In the '80s, Morrow was at the epicenter of the Hoboken indie scene that spawned the likes of The Feelies, The Bongos and Yo La Tengo. He fronted local linchpins The Individuals and had played in 'a,' the band that evolved into The Bongos and basically laid the groundwork for the whole Hoboken movement. He also started running the celebrated Bar/None Records and founded Rage To Live, whose 1989 album Blame The Victims marked his last appearance as a recording artist.
Morrow hasn't exactly been idle in the intervening decades; he's kept Bar/None humming and released albums by They Might Be Giants, Yo La Tengo, The Feelies, of Montreal and scads of others. But after reuniting with both 'a' and The Individuals for the 2013 closing of legendary local haunt Maxwell's, Morrow felt the spark to finally jump back onto the other side of the fence and assemble another band. The self-titled album by Glenn Morrow's Cry For Help is the result.
He may not have played in a band since the Reagan administration, but Morrow has never unplugged from the rock 'n' roll current crackling through his bloodstream, and his new material makes that apparent. He's bringing as much energy and creativity to the table as ever, but adding the kind of gravitas only maturity can supply. Like the album as a whole, "The Days To Come" answers the question, "What's the most convincing way to rock after making the journey from innocence to experience?"
The steadily surging, midtempo rocker finds Morrow searching for ways to keep his inner flame alight in perpetuity. He starts out sounding like he's harking back to retro-futurist '50s sci-fi with his talk of discovering "distant planets and paramecium" and using "titanium legs to get the job done." But his ambitions quickly shift to a more earthbound outlook, with entreaties to "polish up the gnome and put the kettle on in our happy home."
In the tune's bridge, Morrow taps into a verity that's been part of rock 'n' roll from the beginning. When he sings hopefully, "I see a better life for me and you," he's echoing not only Eric Burdon's hardscrabble hopes in The Animals' 1965 song "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place," but the struggle that's motivated generations of rockers to put all their money on a tomorrow brighter than their today. By the time Morrow takes it closer to home, singing, "We can be artists, maybe for one day," the band's unhurried force starts to take an almost majestic tone, evoking the kind of questing landscape over which David Bowie once wailed, "We can be heroes, just for one day."
By the end, Morrow has successfully turned his ambitions into reality, if only for the length of the song, and he exults in the moment by shouting out rock 'n' roll and R&B tropes ("I feel alright," "aw, watch me now") as the music escalates. The flourishes of bassist Mike Rosenberg and drummer Ron Metz give way to the scrappy rhythm-guitar frenzy of Morrow and Ric Sherman grabbing a piece of eternity in the here and now, like Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison did half a century earlier in their Velvet Underground rave-ups.
On Morrow's final vocal line, he extends the word "days" like he's crafting the very vehicle he'll ride into the future — and the echo arriving on "to come" brings back that sci-fi feeling, prompting us to wonder where the line between fantasy and reality really falls for visions of tomorrow. These are the kinds of questions you can't inspire unless, like Morrow and company, you've been around the block a few times.
Glenn Morrow's Cry For Help comes out June 23 via Rhyme And Reason (physical, digital).
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