Sunday, September 9

Morrison Asks All Y'all to Grow up and Dance With Him

Artist: Travis Morrison Hellfighters
Album: All Y’all

God forbid you ever become famous. God forbid you ever start a band that people connect with and give them a voice for opinions and emotions that they’ve always felt, but never had the words or the wit to express. Heaven help you if you ever make something that people are fanatical about, if you make something that they grow to like and love and obsess over until they make t-shirts, draw pictures, tattoo themselves with passages from it and use it as a philosophy for life. God save you if you ever decide to move in a new direction and try something new, because those very same people who worshiped you as a hero-poet for the voiceless will tear the flesh from your skin and suck the breath from your lungs. God save Travis Morrison.

When Morrison and The Dismemberment Plan parted ways in 2003 to peruse new interests, people weren’t ready. People were heartbroken. People became bitter. When Morrison released his first solo album, Travistan in 2004, critics and fans alike blasted the album as waste of money, time and plastic. After a three year gap, the controversial singer / songwriter is back with a band (Travis Morrison Hellfighters) and a new record. All Y’all is another album that will have Dismemberment Plan acolytes crying in protest, completely missing the fact that All Y’all is a good album in its own right.

Those familiar with the Dismemberment Plan know what to expect from All Y’all; dance-rock for people who will never dance. It’s a shame, because there are some downright funky tracks on this album. Lead single “As We Proceed” is a steady, bongo-loving rocker that showcases Morrison’s unique songwriting, his ear for catchy tunes and his taste for rhythm. The bongos show up again on “Just Didn’t Turn Me On,” another track that would be ideal for bumping and grinding if rock kids weren’t so angry / self conscious / whatever.

Elsewhere, on “East Side of the River,” Morrison displays some of his best lyrical imagery in years. A slow groove built around a lazy bass line, Travis describes a distant shoreline where there are padlocks on the playgrounds and nothing is free. The song continues, and Morrison tells a story of love and loss in the small details of interaction opposed to the big, obvious, dramatic flashes that are the stuff of narratives. “If there’s someone that you’d rather be / go find them and bring them back / I’ll love them just the same,” he sings, before reminding that “you can’t put your arms around a memory.” While it may not look like much on paper, “East Side of the River” is a deep song that covers romance better than the most overt Leonard Cohen song.

Sadly, the album is not always this good. “Catch Up” is the soundtrack to ADD; the song moves in more directions and covers more topics in four minutes than some bands have in their entire careers, but with none of the focus. Because of its spastic nature the song never really settles in, and just frustrates. “You Make Me Feel like a Freak” is a herky-jerky mess of noise about hooking up. Too abrasive to be fun and too unfocused to strike a chord with most people, it’s a throw away.

The real tragedy of this album is that it will be slammed because it doesn’t re-create Emergency & I, or because it’s not as complex as the Dismemberment Plan, or it’s not as lyrical clever as his older stuff. The reality of the situation is that All Y’all is a good listen with a few missteps that will get blasted because it doesn’t stand up to an impossible standard. If people could let Morrison make music and stop asking him to catch lightning in a bottle again, maybe it wouldn’t take him three years to release another solo record. Morrison left the Dismemberment Plan because he didn’t want to sound stale; he wanted to grow. It’s time for his fan base to grow up, too.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Key Tracks: As We Proceed, East Side of the River, Just Didn’t Turn me On

Worth The Money: Yes

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