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Jason Morphew | Not for the Faint of Heart
The cover effortlessly evokes Dylan. The be-hatted troubadour in mid pluck of a chord, the one way street signs above his head, the sprawling urban American backdrop with the oddly named Morphew looking like Matt Johnson's younger brother. Inside it's Elliott Smith more than Dylan - quietly hushed serenades rather than hallucinatory tirades - gentle guitars rather than the rip roar of rock finding its feet - and for the first half of the album it's not all that bad. Opener Figueroa Feelings with its gently strummed acoustic guitar and voice filled with romantic yearning sounds like something from Smith's first two albums; songs that are so fragile, so wrought with hurt, that you almost feel embarrassed to listen to them. All well and good and while Morphew's lyrics aren't the most evocative or enchanting there's still the odd line, the neutered specific, which makes you hang on to every word hoping that something bright and beautiful might escape. It does twice. On the superbly world weary Caller ID which is the kind of thing Beck might have produced had he not believed all the newspaper articles proclaiming him the saviour of rock. Then, again on Novato Police, a deadbeat's tale filled with sound, fury and cop baiting, sounding somewhat like a less highly strung Bright Eyes. Why Isn't Everybody Dancing? and the title track could be Stephen Merritt's 70th and 71st Love Song, deadpan with gorgeous hooks and a sense of theatricality while the trust fund saga, Hippies of California, comes across as a less earnest Damien Jurado ("Don't write me letters because there ain't nowhere to send 'em / I write no letters because I never know how to begin them.") Unfortunately, at twenty tracks and over 60 minutes, Morphew's talents are stretched just that bit too thin and the constant acoustic guitar/vocal sonic palette can become grating. At thirty five minutes, ten songs, this would have been an exceptionally promising debut (if you like young men whining about lost love, that is) but at its current length it turns out to be a bit of a chore of disenchantment. Still, that's what the 'program' button was invented for.