Like its chemical namesake, the numbing and euphoric music of Morphine makes pain bearable, even pleasurable. The slippery, low-fi, blues-rock-jazz sounds slide freely across the blood-brain barrier to bind with opiate receptors, blocking pain sensors, but keeping awareness and sensation intact. Mark Sandman's viscous vocals drip like hot wax through the bass line with Dana Colley's smoky saxophone curls and stretches, and Billy Conoway, solid and steady on the drums, keeps the whole thing from burning up. Warning: it is highly dangerous and addictive.
I first heard Morphine in ninth grade and I've been a recovering addict ever since. It was the cool thing all the upperclassmen were into, so I hopped on for a joyride of indulgent saxophones, tempting vocals and deep, low bass that makes your stomach turn and your heart beat all crazy-like. I had never heard anything like the Boston trio's original sounds, which range from the gruff, rock 'n' roll rumble of a hell-bound motorcycle to the quiet rustle of blues music through summer trees; I had never heard anything so sexy and dangerous, so edgy and cool. The subtle charisma of a two-string bass charmed me away from algebra class, and Mark Sandman's sultry vocals, whispering secrets and weaving wild stories, were far more forbidden and interesting than any high school gossip. I listened to Morphine on the sly, sitting in late night cars with scratchy speakers or mainlining it through headphones for the most intense effect. I had to have it -- I was addicted to the coolness and sex appeal of Morphine and the danger it implied. The newest release, The Best of Morphine: 1992-1995, from the group hasn't made the recovery process any easier. A pretty good mix of old stuff, along with three previously unreleased tracks, The Best of Morphine provides a quick fix of the various styles the band brings to the brain. Calm classics like "You Look Like Rain" and "Cure for Pain" soften the rougher edges of later tracks like "Radar" and "Honey White." To keep things interesting, "Thursday" promises to put out, as do "Sexy Christmas Baby Mine" and "Whisper" with their suggestive sax and guttural bass. But it doesn't get much better than when Sandman takes a deep breath and declares, "You are a super ultra maxi Mega super funky love baby" in the pivotal track, "Super Sex." I don't hold Morphine responsible for my compromised position, and if I could go back, I'd do it all over again. I'd even get friends to do it with me, cause "since I met the devil I ain't been the same oh no, and I feel all right now I have to tell ya, I think it's time for me to finally introduce you" too.