Here’s a clip of guitarless indie heroes Morphine with their song “The Other Side”. The song is taken from the band’s Good album, their debut in 1992 . The band set out to push the boundaries of doing without conventional rock ingredients and adding a touch of noirish jazz to the mix instead. Their signature sound is that of the night itself; a little hazy, a little threatening, and ultimately very elegant.
During their 10-year recording span, Morphine created something which might be described as the aural equivalent of film noir, but without the obvious trappings. Not bad for a trio made up of a baritone sax, a drum kit, and a two-string bass.
It took time for record labels to take to the group’s sound, based as it was on an approach which allowed a lot of unfilled spaces in the music. The band was attached to a small scene in Boston, where leader and songwriter Mark Sandman had been involved in a number of bands before forming this one.
It was a small Boston indie label Accurate-Distortion that eventually took a chance on how unconventional the group was and put out the album. Eventually , they were picked up by major label Dreamworks, and their definitive album Cure for Pain proved them to be an unique draw in the guitar-strewn landscape of 90s indie bands.
When I first heard this particular track “the Other Side”, I was sure I was hearing some lost Jim Morrison collaboration with baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan. As such, it crosses all kinds of boundaries in terms of style, but also of time as well. Thematically, this is can be added to the list of songs about death which contributes somewhat to how it transcends any specific era. Mark Sandman’s death while onstage in Rome of a heart attack in 1999 at the young age of 46 perhaps increases this song’s mystique. But despite this, we’re all on our way to the other side. The rest is just a question of the scenery we chose to look at on the way.
After his death, the remaining members of Morphine, saxophonist Dana Colley and drummer Billy Conway, along with other friends and family, established the Mark Sandman Music Education Fund, a children’s charity in the Boston area.
For more music, open your ears and check out the Morphine MySpace Page.