Morning Glory’s sophomore full-length War Psalms is packed full of jarring moments in regular sequence. This is an abrasive and in-your-face punk album, but aside from that, it bears very little resemblance to frontman Ezra Kire’s former work in Leftover Crack and Choking Victim. From the unexpected inclusion of double bass drum fills in “Calm and Alarm” to the string and piano-laden waltz of its conclusion, War Psalms is an aimless but moderately exhilarating thrill ride.
Kire’s voice sounds like a cross between Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock and the Bouncing Souls’ Greg Attonito, an unusual hybrid that’s indicative of the constant eclectic tendencies of War Psalms. A number of classical instruments appear, but unlike the rather tasteful arrangements of Fat Wreck Chords peers Old Man Markley, Morning Glory has no concern for subtlety. “Oi!”s are plentiful, after all.
War Psalms is messy, musically, to the point it’s unclear as to what extent satire plays a role. In the utterly pointless “Natas Behind Me,” Kire obnoxiously feigns labored breathing while warning, “It’s getting closer. Oh my god. Run!” “I Want Control,” meanwhile, centers on a thrash riff and the repeated exclamation of the song’s title, and that’s more than half of the entire song. And the piano balladry in “Karry On” — a reprisal from the previous track — meshes so poorly with the uplifting punk that precedes it that the amusing contrast seems intentional.
Despite its many quirks, War Psalms is a fun and fresh take on the punk genre. “Standard Issue,” the album’s most focused track, is pure mid-tempo punk with Dead to Me’s charm. Beyond that, however, the album abandons convention. There is no uniform mood, and it’s difficult to identify one song as being representative of the entire album. One minute, trumpets lead a heavy metal-tinged finale. The next, Morning Glory reverts to singalong punk.
War Psalms is an album with no shortage of diversity and surprises, and what it lacks in cohesiveness it largely makes up for in unpredictability.
War Psalms is available via Fat Wreck Chords tomorrow, March 4.
Review by Anthony Glaser