Ever wake up with Morningwood? You know -- the rock unit that roused a little excitement while you were sleeping. On its self-titled debut, the band wants to get sexy with every man, woman and hipster in a game of musical grab-ass. Sweaty palm mutes, disco beats and party-girl karaoke fantasy make for some unrelenting histrionics.
Morningwood frontwoman Chantal Claret has plenty of sass, and she knows how to abuse it. A string of flimsy lines tied onto big hooks, her lyrics read like "how-to" lessons for illiterate rock divas. While bassist Pedro Yanowitz was drumming for The Wallflowers, and founding guitarist Richard Steel played in Spacehog, Claret was still dancing around to Joan Jett records in her underwear. Then fates aligned, retro became metro, and a major label beckoned.
With the help of guitar dude Timo Ellis and drummer Jappa Keenan O (a.k.a. John Paul), Claret and Yanowitz thought up some songs and a band name more befitting a nudist colony or retirement community. Ellis, who does not play on the record, had better luck naming his aptly titled solo effort, "T.O.A.S.T" (Tries Out All Sorts of Things).
But luck has nothing to do with Morningwood. "Nu Rock," the album's charging opener, tries to make you forget that "nu" is just a fancy word for "pop." As Morningwood begins dipping its neon-pink fingernails in rhinestone sparkles and studio gloss, the calculated zeal really starts to shine. The sound completely exaggerates itself with "Nth Degree," a cutesy anthem spelling out the band's name and exponential kitsch factor for all to hear.
Claret gets feisty on a Pixies-style homage to the art of seduction called "Take Off Your Clothes" before getting downright pedophilic on "Babysitter." Guitars jump in and out of the mix, giving the robotic sound a light wood-grain finish to hide any digital fuzz. "New York Girls" reminds you that New York City is sexy and that Morningwood is from there.
With all of that out of the way, the album closes in on something competent."Ride the Lights," a soft electronic thought-piece desperately seeking its own Volkswagen commercial, suggests an even more synthesized follow-up record, just in case the whole rock thing becomes "yesterday" before the band sees tomorrow. But let's hope not, because then what use is Morningwood?