I believe the effectiveness of aggressive music hinges on a constant and bloody game of tug of war. Pulling for supreme dominance are the grandiloquence and casual fluidity of sound against the dull realities and ubiquitous inequities of the human experience. It’s a songwriter’s duty to reign in meaningless tones and make them work with our emotions– to harness the fundamentally inhuman. As Herculean as it sounds, it all comes down to a simple equation of knowledge and vision; both of which Ezra Kire has in abundance. Poets Were My Heroes is Morning Glory’s first full-length in nine years and undoubtedly a great achievement. This is punk rock re-appropriating the 70’s bombast of Queen and Meat Loaf as raw and relevant protest music for the 21st century.
The first words spoken on Poets Were My Heroes are voiced by a child, the young Ezra Kire introducing the album with his very first song, singing: “you should see what Stevie has for dinner. It comes in a little brown bottle, down at the liquor store.” There’s something prophetic there, in regards to Kire’s own battles with substance abuse, but more so it delivers us context. Morning Glory is Ezra Kire’s band, it’s his voice, it’s his words, his compositions. Poets may well be his magnum opus, but it’s nothing without context. A young child singing about his step-father’s alcoholism accompanied by a dubiously tuned acoustic, and a grown man melding sound and idea into a meaningful whole. There couldn’t be a better opening track for this album.
On Poets Were My Heroes the sound has expanded from earlier Morning Glory releases. Strings, twisting guitar melodies, angelic choirs– but for all of it’s (Beautiful! Glorious!) excesses, the album never feels like it leaves punk behind. The guitar tone growls with a sharp distortion and the lyrics anchor the sound with their own weighty, thoughtful poetry, delivered with Kire’s own Lydon-esque snarl.
Perhaps the reason this album is as good as it is lies in the honesty within it’s lyrics. Kire has sobered up and he’s taking inventory. He sees the world around him more clearly, but more importantly he can see himself. “All the talent I’ve seen traded for a drag, all the loved ones I’ve neglected for a bag,” sings Kire on the title track, a massive song complete with chugging power chords and a grandiose string arrangement.
“Born To December” is another stand-out on an album of stand-outs. It begins as an intimate piano driven song before blowing sky high into a beautiful but breakneck punk song. The imagery is emotional, as Kire sings “Twas the fourth of July, the fireworks on high. Lit our rooftop in Manhattan and I could feel you on my right. You pulled me to a kiss right at the anthem’s rockets part. And I swear that at that moment I could feel you in my heart,” it’s hard not to feel the weight of the moment. But it’d be a shame to discuss the album’s lyrical quality without mentioning “Quemar Las Fronteras.” While a lot of the album is deeply personal, this track in particular reveals how powerful Morning Glory’s political side can be. I’m not always into political punk; so often it comes off as arrogant, heavy-handed, and obnoxious– but here it comes off as heart-thumpingly hopeful. Whether you agree with the song’s world without borders conceit, it’s hard to deny the power of it’s chorus. It’s a huge gang vocaled call for freedom, immaculately arranged. It’ll stay with you for days, and shake you to your core.
From start to finish, Poets Were My Heroes is an impressive album. Formidable in it’s proficiency, it inspires a sublime sense of awe. Morning Glory has transcended the trappings of crack rock steady and instead reached to the sky for a sound that is both bold and vitriolic– it gives meaning to our lives, but doesn’t romanticize the way we live them. Poets Were My Heroes is an album for the optimistic and the disgusted, the addicts and the teetotalers– it’s punk rock with ambition and humanity, and it’d rather die than give up either.