“Doing whatever you want is the new punk. Creative control. You don’t like it? Fuck you.”
So go the lyrics to “I Want Control”, a speedy, mid-album cut off of Morning Glory’s third LP, War Psalms. Two years that have passed since the NYC based punk act unleashed the critically acclaimed Poets Were My Heroes, and Morning Glory front-man Ezra Kire has spent that time making it his goal to simultaneously take his band back to their roots while charging forward into the future. War Psalms is the result of Kire’s determination: an ambitious and hard-hitting album that spits out heavy metal guitars just as swiftly as it does piano ballads, all while keeping it firmly punk rock.
As promised prior to the album’s release, War Psalms strips away most of the expansive instrumentation of Poets Were My Heroes. The piano and horns are still present from time to time (“War Dance”, “Know Your Wrongs”, “Home Free”), but for the most part, this is a very guitar-driven record, and marks the next chapter of Morning Glory’s ever-evolving Revolution Rock sound. The riffs on this album are intense, with both guitar and bass rapidly firing out note after note not unlike ammunition out of a machine gun (giving a whole new meaning to “I Am Machine Gun”). Backing up those riffs is the powerhouse drumming style, courtesy of session drummer (and former Dresden Doll) Brian Viglione.
In an act that isn’t commonly found on many punk albums, at least a third of the album is dedicated to tracks that are mostly instrumental. For better or for worse, these songs are made up of very few lyrics and act more as introductions or interludes to the next song (or as an outro in the case of “Karry On”). It’s off-putting at first and it might be too jarring for some, but these tracks highlight just how brilliant and focused the musicianship is on the album.
With a title like War Psalms, it’s not exactly subtle that the messages in these songs are socio-political in nature. Moving away from the personal narrative that made Poets Were My Heroes so revered, Morning Glory uses this album to tackle their way into more globally focused territory. There’s some self reflection sprinkled here and there, but rather than being an introspective look inward, Kire portrays a sense of what the individual can do for the world. It’s a very Strummerian take on lyric writing, and he pulls it off sounding grandiose without ever making it sound cheesy.
War Psalms is the product of a band with a vision. That vision is doing what the band wants to do. And there’s nothing more punk than that. You don’t like it? Well… you know what Kire would have to say about that.
5 / 5
RIYL: The Clash, Propagandhi, any Crack Rock Steady 7 project