Rough Trade, 2010

Someone once mentioned “The Morning Benders” to me. I think it was a boy and he was an early adopter — one who had a tattoo on his arm of some pleasing lyric in a place that had the potential to make girls swoon. The tattoo didn’t impress me, but this abum did.

Although Big Echo was released in March back in the U.S., it couldn’t be more perfectly timed to come out during the trimmings of summer — the heat has come and worked its way into the corners of rooms. Thankfully, here on the West Coast, we get cool evening breezes and it’s during one of these peaceful nights that Big Echo was launched upon me with its apropos Wall of Sound (fittingly, The ‘Benders covered Phil Spector’s ladies on a free covers album released two years ago). This Berkeley-based band are terrific at creating luminescent pop songs that evoke a mild amount of Shins-y glimmer but without all of that annoying flannel. It’s as if all of those tragic things had never happened to the Beach Boys, they matured anyway, and then they put out this album.

Original, strong lyrics are hard to come by these days, but The Morning Benders pleasingly stuff them in to capacity. On “Promises”, for example, we have, “Children you will, be cared for at once, and wanted our arms like, promises plucked from above.” Can we offer that to our children in real life?  Elsewhere, on “Cold War”, “we want a nice clean fight/no blood, no bite/when the end is near/let’s just be frank/just let it sit, be still/we’ll meet in the middle, c’mon.” Sure, there are some errant “woah oh ohs” here and there, evoking an early Weezer, but this is genuinely an album of pleasing songs with real originality. “Hand Me Downs” evokes sharp disdain as “selfish claims love at first sight.” The best line, one of those an English teacher would call “show not tell” is from “Excuses”: “we are so smooth now our edges are beaten drift wood/widdled down old bodies slip when they make love/we’ll mine our sparks to shoot us above”

Although the entire album is well-situated in the genre of baroque pop, “Mason Jar” is its best example. “Stitches” has the comforting fuzz of the genre. In between, we get “Sleeping In” which is vacuous and lofty for two minutes then crashes into cacophany. That 1960s sound of The Crystals and The Ronettes is unlikely channeled here — “Excuses” sounds like a great slow dance song at an “Under the Sea” themed prom. Glockenspiel pleasingly tinkles through “Wet Cement” (as it did on their Crystals cover of “He’s a Rebel”). But the standout track, by far, is “All Day Day Light,” the first thirty seconds of which line up very well with a sample off of Blur’s “London Loves” with lyrics seemingly straight out of a Camera Obscura song: “I had someone take all my calls/And watched them outplay me.”

In a musical area well-covered by bands, it’s always gratifying to discover a band capable of catchy, singable tunes that don’t seem like everything else out there. Kudos to you, Morning Benders — stick around for the afternoon.