It was going to be called that anyway, this final [a]Morphine[/a] album, well before singer and bassist Mark Sandman suffered a fatal heart attack on an Italian stage last July. This is no hastily assembled, tragically titled wake for a cult figure, then, but a ‘proper’ fifth record the culmination of a career of sax-suffused, guitarless US lo-rock that kicked off with 1992’s ‘Good’. The ever-inventive Sandman had even created a new instrument for it, the tri-tar: a three-string guitar of which one was a bass string. Hell, he’d even perked up a bit, coming on like a stripped-down soul revue on tunes like ‘Top Floor, Bottom Buzzer’.
It’s unavoidable, though, that each track of [a]Morphine[/a]’s valedictory blues now seems touched by that twilight that raises mere melancholy to a state of grace. ‘The Night’‘s title track, in particular, boasts groaning cellos and Sandman‘s aged whiskey tones to spine-tingling effect, while the stark, Tricky-ish experiments of ‘Like A Mirror’ unveil an even more naked minimal bent.
The rest, though, is no great revelation. It is merely a decent [a]Morphine[/a] album, only with go-sadder stripes. In fact, Dana Colley‘s angry goose sax frequently gets in the way of Sandman‘s pithy smouldering. It always did, you know.