- Derek and the Demons, Morning Comes Again
(What Doth Life, digital download)
For their fifth record, Derek and the Demons have amped it up, so to speak. Morning Comes Again finds the Windsor band in a pugnacious mood, playing with an edge unlike anything heard on their 2017 album, Out of the Woodwork. The drums are a little bigger, and the songs have more drive, if not always more purpose.
As a songwriter, singer-guitarist Derek Young is clearly leaning more political, or at least more topical. "Fight With Love," "Hope in the Dark" and the title track all center on optimism amid conflict, which forms the album's thematic core. Rather than wallow in a sort of existential middle ground of being shocked and angry at the state of the world but unable or unwilling to confront it, Young uses his songs to urge faith in love. The idea is that, one day, love will spur change and beat back the darkness.
All that feel-good optimism aside, the band is clearly riled up about something. Young's guitars are crisp, big and absolutely snarling with distortion. Drummer Chris Egner propels the tunes with a steady hand. And he's sufficiently locked in with bassist Kiel Alarcón. Also the record's producer, Alarcón has turned out a fabulous-sounding album.
Sometimes the songs keep pace with the Demons' ambitions. Opening track "Arrive" has a sinewy guitar groove and features gorgeous vocal accompaniment by the Break Maids. The local folk-punk trio appears on five of the LP's seven tracks, leaving a mark every time.
Other songs, such as "All She Wrote," sort of spin their wheels in a puddle of classic-rock tropes. Lyrics have never been Young's calling card, but his conviction in singing them goes a long way toward pushing the song through. His delivery is somewhat reminiscent of the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir, with a pinch of Warren Zevon.
Young really lets his guitar solos stretch out, as well. "Hey Wait," which clocks in at 10 and a half minutes, finds the guitarist ripping notes out of his instrument with purpose and rock-and-roll abandon in equal measures. If you're not one for a shit-ton of blues scales and four-minute solos, this record might not be for you.
Good production aside, the album staggers at times with sloppily expressed sentiment and jams that should have been cut off a few minutes earlier. A really good band is playing on this record, but tighter focus would help them stand out. Even so, Morning Comes Again might be just your blend of stiff-upper-lip pacifism and elongated guitar solos.
Morning Comes Again is available at derekandthedemons.bandcamp.com.