The Morning Benders - Big Echo

by James Briscoe Rating:8.5 Release Date:2010-08-09

The Morning Benders album, 'Big Echo' could not have reached me along those electronic mail pathways at a more welcome time. 'Tis a dainty, breeze-laden august evening as I listen to The Morning Benders' guitars ejaculating wave after wave of sound.

The Mourning Benders are a four-piece consisting of, Christopher Chu on vocals and guitar, Jonathan Chu on guitar, Julian Harmon on drums and Tim Or on bass. It fails to surprise, after hearing the first few seconds of their album, that they reign from California. However, this does not mean that they follow any long-since-dead west coast American trend.

The album's name, Big Echo, is based on a Zen proverb: "Shouting in to a valley. Big shout: big echo. Small shout: small echo". So it seems that The Morning Benders see their second album as a big shout to music fans out there or maybe they are shouting out in pain or joy.

"The title Big Echo sums up what we're doing sonically and textually," says singer, lyricist and songwriter, Christopher Chu."The idea was to take sounds from all different eras and all different kinds of music, throw them together, and see how they sound bouncing off each other. Throw it all into an echo chamber. Thematically, there's a lot of pondering about time, the span of your life and how your perspective fits into everyone else's. It explores the idea of your memories as echoes that are always inside you, creating these frequencies that become your soul."

Moreover, singer, Christopher Chu, has the sonic attributes of Brian Wilson, previously of The Beach Boys, but he does not have the same anguish in his voice. Nevertheless, The Morning Benders are good enough to escape any accusations that they might lack originality. Any similarity they have to other west coast bands stems from inspiration and that alone.

On this occasion, you can really see how living in a beautiful, warm and sun-bathed environment can breed an equally beautiful blend of music. You can see the light glinting off the gentle waves in their wind chimes. In contrast, the regularly cloudy skies of England have rarely inspired such engaging imagery since Morrissey sang, "The rain falls hard on a humdrum town, this town has dragged you down", in The Smiths' 'William, It Was Really Nothing', in 1984.

The opening track of the album, 'Excuses', begins in a magical way with high pitched guitars (courtesy of Jonathan Chu) reminiscent of Willy Wonka's 'Oompa' whistle from the film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But then, wistful violins are introduced and romantic harmonies ensue. It is a gentle introduction to the album and only after several listens do you realise how 'old fashioned' some of its features are. The lyrics in between the 'dum dum dum' harmonies are difficult to decipher but it is a wonderfully disorientating wall of sound that you are presented with.

'Wet Cement' is an instant hit with me as it reminds me of Bart Simpson's love of skating over wet cement in the cult US sit-com, The Simpsons. Christopher Chu's voice would comfort any broken heart. 'Wet Cement' is about meeting someone and seemingly setting your memories together in stone and the associations that you forge together over time. Christopher Chu sounds a lot like Conor Deasy of The Thrills in this one. Whether The Thrills were one of The Morning Benders' influences or the similarity is simply because they were both inspired by California is not clear.

As soon as, 'Cold War' kicked in, I thought my iTunes library had skipped to, 'That's Entertainment', by The Jam. However, it is just a promise that The Morning Benders are no one trick ponies. Not all of Big Echo is gleefully harmonic; 'Cold War' shows that this four-piece can write decent foot-tapping tunes as well.

Big Echo is a delightful album to listen to. Its sun-kissed, natural tones will warm your heart and ears like the warm Pacific Ocean. You can almost imagine that this collection of harmonies might have been lost at sea in the 1960's and washed up on a shore somewhere far away. It is impressive that Big Echo is only The Morning Benders' second album. It seems that they are a band who value quality and strive to put all of their best creative and musical talent in to each piece of music that they create. Either that or they have just struck musical gold.

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