Morphine was one of those bands that elicited far more than its share of those, “Holy shit, what was that I just heard?” moments from anyone who caught them for the first time.
A three-piece outfit that featured drums, bass and a baritone sax, they put out a sound that, for me, connected deeply. Viscerally. Physically. Emotionally. Intellectually.
They were completely their own thing, something to behold, and their sound hit me with this Velvet Underground-type vibe.
I remember when I heard them for the first time — on KUSF, because I was living in San Francisco at the time — and the very next day I went on down to Amoeba Records on Haight Street and bought up whatever I could find by them.
With Dana Colley‘s fluid yet percussive bari sax lines riding atop singer/bass player Mark Sandman’s slinky, glistening bass work, and all of it driven by drummer’s Jerome Deupree’s in-the-pocket grooves, they forged a sound that was not just unforgettable, but somehow addictive. Which probably explains the band name. And the songs rocked.
I was totally bummed when I heard that Sandman had died in 2009 because whenever someone that young and that talented passes away, it’s a goddamn tragedy. And Morphine remains to this day one of those bands that I truly regret never getting to see play live.
But now I’ve got a chance to cross that particular line item off my lengthy and growing list of regrets, because the surviving members, saxophonist Colley – who was born in Portland, Maine, btw – and Dupree regrouped with New Orleans guitarist and singer Jeremy Lyons, as Vapors of Morphine.
It’s uncanny: Lyons somehow manages to evoke Sandman’s presence while at the same time bringing his own thing to the table. And while Dupree gave up pounding the skins back in 2019, Boston area drummer Tom Arey (Peter Wolf, J. Geils Band, Ghosts of Jupiter) has got it more than covered, and together the three lay down a sound that is, as they say, often imitated but never, ever duplicated.
And they’ve got a new record out, called Fear & Fantasy which they are on tour in support of now. And one of the shows on that tour is Saturday night, at the Bayside Bowl, right here in Portland, Maine!
I’ve listened to the thing at least a half-dozen times now on their website — I’m gonna buy it at the show on Saturday — and here’s my take: this show isn’t gonna be just some nostalgia trip. Fear & Fantasy, and while it certainly evokes that Morphine sound – how could it not, given it’s genealogy – unquestionably stands on its own.
Plus, it’s a pretty goddamn good record.
Maine’s own Muddy Ruckus is gonna open the night with their own brand of, “darkly inventive Americana” — and if you haven’t hear them yet, yer in fer a treat.
Get your tickets here, and see you at the show.