The Morlocks
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The Morlocks

Los Angeles, California, United States | INDIE

Los Angeles, California, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Punk


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Saturday, August 28, 2010
Last updated 5:17 p.m. PT
Music Review: The Morlocks - The Morlocks Play Chess

In The Time Machine, the Morlocks were freaky, underground creatures who only ventured out at night. For the past 25 years, this could describe one of L.A.’s greatest ever garage-punk bands, who also call themselves The Morlocks. A book could (and should) be written about their turbulent history over the years. A definite highlight would have come in 1999 when Spin magazine reported that singer Leighton Koizumi had overdosed and died. At the time he was actually in the process of reforming the band.

He is still alive and well, as their new album The Morlocks Play Chess shows. There is certainly a ghoulish, subterranean feel to this group. In fact it is as raw and dirty a sound as anything you are likely to hear. Play Chess is filled with filthy guitars and the kind of screams that nightmares come from. Of course it helps that all 12 tunes are classics from the Chess Records archives, written by masters such as Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry and the like. But it took serious balls to attempt these songs, the original versions of which are all in the Hall Of Fame league.

From the first rave-up guitar notes of “I’m A Man,” you know that The Morlocks have brought their A-game. The sound hits you like its 2:30 am, the third keg is being tapped, and the band are just hitting their prime. And that is where Plays Chess stays, all the way through. Skip over to “Who Do You Love,” probably best known these days from the George Thorogood cover. These guys wipe the floor with that Delaware poseur. This is as raw as the early garage-punk of legends like The Sonics or Pretty Things. And it shows just how dangerous music can still sound in the right hands.

The same holds true with “Boom Boom” that wild John Lee Hooker tune that comes across every bit as predatory as ever. “Smokestack Lightning,” and “Killing Floor” are a couple of other standouts as well. But honestly, every song kicks, and the record should just be listened to straight through.

The Morlocks close things out with their take on Chuck Berry’s “Back In The USA.” It’s the perfect ending — a good old rave-up to send everyone home rocked out and happy. For anyone who ever dug the bands on Estrus, the hot rod world of Rat Fink, or just low culture in general, you have got to check out The Morlocks. They have come up with one bad-ass album here. - Hearst Seattle Media, LLC

See Link - Music Conection

See Link - Music Conection

The Morlocks fue una de las bandas más legendarias del revival de “Garage Punk” de la década de los ochenta. La formación original del conjunto de San Diego (California), venia de otra formación mítica para los seguidores de este género musical; The Gravedigger Five, y eso les ayudo bastante a colarse en la escena californiana.

Los buenos aunque escasos discos, sus potentes directos y ese aura de malditismo y peligrosidad ayudaron a crear la leyenda, si a eso le unimos que en 1999 dieron por muerto al cantante de la banda; Leighton Koizumi, cuando en realidad fue a parar a la cárcel por un asunto todavía no muy claro, entonces ya tenemos un mito.

El caso es que Leighton ha intentado resucitar en diferentes ocasiones a The Morlocks con mayor o menor fortuna, y parece que esta es la buena. Acaban de editar su nuevo y flamante disco “Play Chess”; un álbum en el que rinden homenaje al sello norteamericano que tantas alegrías nos dio. Y eso es lo que están haciendo durante esta extensísima gira que les llevara por toda Europa, tocar sus canciones favoritas del susodicho sello discográfico.

Leighton Koizumi es uno de esos tipos que con su sola presencia en el escenario llena de tensión la sala, y pone en acción a los asistentes a sus conciertos. Así la banda comenzó a tocar los primeros acordes de “Help Me” cuando el vocalista apareció copa en mano y con la “chulería” que le caracteriza saludo a los presentes, para empezar a cantar como un poseso. Aunque en principio la banda venia a presentar su nuevo álbum, no dejaron de lado temas clásicos en su repertorio; “Dirty Red”, “Sex Panther”, “Be my Side” o la versión del “Teenage Head” de los Flaming Groovies, en los cuales el quinteto demostró estar en plena forma, con un sonido agresivo a la par que compacto.

Entre bromas en “spanglish” del vocalista y trallazos sónicos de la banda, especialmente del guitarrista Nicolas Jodoin, con un estilo impecable por cierto, también dieron rienda suelta a su pasión por el blues en versiones como; “I´m a Man”, “Help Me” o “Who Do You Love”. Otros temas del nuevo álbum no salieron tan bien parados en cuanto a factura, no porque fuera mala, si no por las formas, así; “You Never Can Tell” o “Feel so Bad” quedaron prácticamente irreconocibles por la velocidad imprimida.
No estuvieron más de una hora sobre el escenario, hecho este que puede dejar boquiabiertos a los neófitos en un concierto de los californianos, pero los que los conozcan sabrán que sus conciertos rara vez pasan de los cincuenta minutos.

Quizás sea mejor así, tanta mala leche sobre un escenario es divertida, pero no puede ser buena para la salud lo miremos por donde lo miremos. Por mi parte me apunto a la insalubridad de The Morlocks.
- Muzikalia Magazine

The Morlocks are a five-piece garage band from Los Angeles. And they offer the latest Track Of The Day. Check out all the Tracks Of The Day.

The band describe their sound as ‘a little of this and a little of that. . . You know, the good stuff! Kinks, Chocolate Watch Band, Yardbirds, and some experiMENTAL and Freakbeat. Good Brit Pop, Blues, soul, folk, and anything that is tastey and NOT industry fabricated.’

The band started out in 1984, releasing their debut album Emerge a year later. However, the band spilt up in 1987, reuniting a decade later. Since then the line-up has featured original members Leighton Koizumu (vocals) and Mark Mullen (drums), plus guitarists Bobby Burns and Lenny Pops and bassist Nick ‘The Canadian’.

The Morlocks are about to release new album Play Chess through Fargo. It’s their tribute the seminal Chess Records catalogue. They will be coming to London, playing the Shepherd’s Bush Empire on October 3, as part of a month-long European tour.

Right now, you can download the song I’m A Man for free here. Yes, it is a cover of the Bo Diddley classic. - Future Publishing Limited / Classic Rock Magazine

There's nothing new under the sun, as the old expression goes, and that's especially true for music. The long genetic chain of folk and blues that extends back to Europe and Africa eventually gets churned and reborn later as gospel, country, bluegrass, jazz and rock. Like a Mobius strip, it's the circle that goes unbroken, or perhaps Ouroboros, the snake devouring its tail. It's a feedback of roots music reinvented and re-embraced by subsequent generations looking to get a groove on.

For instance, British kids in port cities like Liverpool were often treated to the latest American records by their seafaring dads returning home. This included pop, blues, R&B and rock ‘n' roll. Of course, these kids started their own bands, influenced by music that was influenced by music going back and back. Early British invasion bands were strongly influenced by black blues artists and the likes of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley, Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. American kids flipped over what was, in essence, their own music, recycled and fed back to them again. Folk and blues had a huge resurgence here throughout the ‘60s as well, with folk flipping over on its back when Dylan plugged in and went electric, frying some brains in the process.

Right along in the middle of the ‘60s was an American response to the British invasion, hard stomping garage-rock. Proto-punky songs primarily themed around boy-girl relationships, love, yearning, loneliness and rebellion. Fast forward to 1972 and Nuggets gathered some of the best of this primal genre into a classic collection helping us skate through most of the musical dreck early in that decade. About ten years later, after punk and new wave were off and running, some kids were dipping into the mid-‘60s classics and wishing it could be 1965 again. Bands that grabbed my attention at the dawn of the ‘80s, The Barracudas, The Chesterfield Kings, my pal Alec Palao's band the Sting-Rays, The Meteors' one-shot band, the Clapham South Escalators and Chicago's notorious The Cunts Live, who actually had been garaging it since about 1974. By the mid-‘80s a worldwide garage-punk renaissance was in full swing with a plethora of fantastic bands in Sweden, France and Down Under.

The Morlocks were rocking San Diego as the Gravedigger 5, then swung north to San Fran and transformed into the Morlocks. Of all of the bands of their ilk, their psyche-lithic garage-rawk had true currency and elevated them to near-cult status among their peers and fans everywhere. At an East coast vs. West coast Battle of the Bands, I saw them stunningly stomp The Chesterfield Kings' collective ass. They really know their shit about classic garage and psych bands, blues-rock, R&B music and ‘70s punkers like the MC5, Stooges and Ramones.

This Play Chess project (as in, "Chess Records") gives them something to sink their fangs into, and pays tribute to the pioneers that rocked the world and helped to tear down the race wall around black music. Leighton Koizumi's gravelly-raw voice is perfectly suited to do justice to Howling Wolf and Bo Diddley. They tear through a dozen gems like "I'm A Man", "Smokestack Lightning", "You Can't Sit Down", and "You Never Can Tell" with a pretty straightforward style, choosing not to add too much embellishment or mangle and distort the songs as Tim Kerr did in Jack O' Fire. The band delivers, energy wise, for the most part the song picks are solid. (On "Boom Boom" Leighton's voice croaks out in the opening and perhaps another take later would have nailed it.) They do let go and psych out on "Who Do You Love" and "Killing Floor" and it's great. "Feel So Bad" and "Help Me" sound they've been playing them for decades and made them their own.

So, once again, all that is old is new again. Or maybe it's just a circadian cycle. - Blurt Magazine

It seems the rock & roll Gods — or the Grim Reaper — have been trying to tell the Morlocks' lead singer, Leighton Koizumi, something for a while now. After all, in 1999 Spin magazine declared him dead (in print) not long before a live album was released abroad without his involvement, titled Wake Me When I'm Dead.
Though he's obviously been fascinated by dark imagery and themes — the first band he joined, at 16 in hometown San Diego, was called the Gravedigger V, and an early Morlocks record was titled Submerged Alive — Koizumi wasn't listening.

When we speak with him by phone he's very much alive, residing in Spain with his fiancée and about to reemerge in a big way with a bombastic lineup of Los Angeles bandmates and a new record featuring clever takes on some classic blues material, The Morlocks Play Chess.

Not to say that the Morlocks haven't required resuscitation a few times during their 25-year lifespan. Koizumi cops to a now-conquered heroin problem and a subsequent downward spiral that saw him relocate to San Francisco for a while and then take a break from the band for 10 years. He has no idea, though, where Spin's report that he'd overdosed came from. "I have never OD'd," he insists.

Heroin deaths might be so passé, but the truth behind this tale is a lot more sordid. The reason for Koizumi's vanishing act from music-making involved the "robbing of a dealer" in a Mexican border town in 1990. Although he was just after drugs, Koizumi got 10 years in prison on a kidnapping charge, because, as he tells it, the incident involved "tying people up."

The singer has always been a self-proclaimed "habitual line-stepper." But as longest-serving bandmate Lenny Pops says of his frontman, "He's always been completely open about his past," and his talent has never been overshadowed by his lifestyle.

After leaving the slammer around 2000, Koizumi got sober via the MusiCares MAP Fund and reunited with an old cohort: Bob Forrest of Thelonious Monster, now a counselor seen on TV's Celebrity Rehab. Forrest was long known for his own struggles, and back in the day, Monster and the Morlocks (two of the earliest bands on Epitaph Records) were peers and pals with promise.

Massive mainstream success didn't happen for either, but had Koizumi not been focused on getting clean after his incarceration, he could have had a second chance during the early 2000s, when a slew of garage-style bands, including the Hives and the White Stripes, broke big.

He did become part of a new psych-rock scene in Los Angeles, jamming and hanging with various musicians, including guys from the Brian Jonestown Massacre and Spindrift. From these social circles, a proper reformation of the Morlocks began. Pops (the Red Hearts, the Thieves, BJM) joined on guitar, along with Bobby Bones (no longer with the band), bassist Joe Batula and drummer Marky Arnold. The Morlocks toured and recorded a smoldering comeback disc, Easy Listening for the Underachiever (2008), for a European label. The friend who co-produced it, Nic Jodoin, joined the band for the supporting tour and never left.

Although Underachiever was never released in the U.S., copies did float around (there's one in our own CD collection). Somebody in song licensing got one, too, and the group soon found snippets of its catchier material used in everything from television dramas to T.G.I. Friday's commercials. "One of the people instrumental in placing our music for TV went on to work for Chess' back catalog," explains Jodoin. "He came up with the idea for us to tackle these blues songs last year."

Covering epic tunes like Bo Diddley's "I'm a Man" and "Who Do You Love," Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell" and Elvis Presley's "Feel So Bad" was a daunting endeavor, to say the least. Koizumi says he was "iffy at first."

"We did a solid month of research on these songs before we knew what we were going to do," Pops says. "We'd try them three to five different ways, experimenting, sometimes completely rearranging, till we all agreed."

"There's, like, 50 versions of each of these songs out there, often just from the original artist," Jodoin adds. "Hearing so many different takes on them, we felt free to put our own stamp and, you know, fuck 'em up a bit."

The Morlocks' stamp is more like a mad stomp. Their signature sound is raw, sexy and loose, with furious, fuzzy and/or sludgy guitars, brutal drum work and psychedelic, surf and British Invasion nuances. Koizumi's vocals bring to mind Iggy Pop (whom he cites as an early influence) and the New York Dolls' David Johansen, and he's got the showmanship to back up these comparisons.

Pops calls their sound "caveman rock." Koizumi calls it "dirty punk." Their bluesy quality makes them suited for the Chess undertaking, and for the most part, it's a checkmate. Koizumi's unyielding persona gives his interpretations a swagger and sonic credibility few crooners could pull off, his death-defiant existence not unlike those of the legendary artists he's covering. When this dude busts out a hell-raising, John Lee Hooker–caliber "Boom, Boom, Boom ... A-haw-haw-haw" (whatever it actually means), you believe it.

The Morlocks' record-release party is at Crazy Girls, 1433 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., on Wednesday, August 25 (with Spindrift and the Dolly Rocker Movement).
- The L.A. Weekly


"She's My Fix"/"You Must Not Be Seen As I Am" 7" (Earache, 1989)
"Under The Wheel"/"Hurricane A' Coming" 7" (Iloki, 1991)
"I Don't Do Funerals Anymore"/"Nightmares" 7" (Dirty Water, 2008)
Emerge LP (Midnight, 1985)
Submerged Alive LP (Epitaph, 1988)
Wake Me When I'm Dead LP (Listen Loudest, 1991)
Uglier Than You'll Ever Be!(Voxx, 1997)
Easy Listening For The Underachiever(Go Down Records, 2008)
The Morlocks Play Chess (popantipop, 2010)



The Morlocks
Tell me something: Is rock and roll worth getting hangnail and calluses, busted-out teeth, bruises and black eyes? Is it worth the long hours driving from city to city, catching one bath a week and drinking yourself back sober just to bring two hours of joy to your audience? Is it worth the lacerations, the broken relationships, the endless stream of nights cobbled together through bad coffee, truck stops, 24-hour diners and drive-thrus, bottomless bottles of booze, pack after pack of cigarettes, waking up in a van surrounded by guitar amps and microphones? Is the need to make music really worth living and dying for?
The Morlocks believe it is. The Morlocks aren’t some smoothed-out, swagged-out fuck-ups toting stage passes and guitars; The Morlocks are a living, sleeping and breathing embodiment of the garage punk they’ve perfected and long performed. The music they create is the lifeblood of their cause, a cause which is as much a point of pride as a way of life. The scars, breaks and bruises earned along the way serve to magnify the only truth they know.
You see, The Morlocks are not afraid for you to watch them bleed.
Both as a band and as individuals, The Morlocks have earned their stripes on the rock and roll circuit. Hailing from Los Angeles, The Morlocks are staples of the city’s world-renowned music scene. Through break-ups, break downs, personnel changes, changing cities and shifts in popular culture, The Morlocks have continually grown stronger at what they do best even as they died their many deaths. In the process, The Morlocks have built up a die-hard following and originality. Where others would have bled out long ago, The Morlocks get stitched up and keep going.
Surprising, then, that in 1999, Spin Magazine printed an inaccurate story declaring the death of their energetic, charismatic lead singer Leighton Koizumi (also fronting the Gravedigger V). Needless to say, Leighton (far from being dead) continues to lead the charge, a duty he has held since the band’s debut LP Emerge. With the addition of Mark Arnold on drums, Lenny Pops and Nicolas Jodoin on guitar duties and Joe Baluta on bass, The Morlocks have continued to perform and make records, a number of which have been featured prominently in movies, television shows and video games.
During their career, there’s often a calling among dedicated, serious rock performers to offer tribute to the music that inspires them. Growing up fans of Chicago blues-rock legends like Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley, The Morlocks’ shared love of all things related to Chess Records created a natural inspiration to pay homage to some of their musical heroes. The resulting album, The Morlocks Play Chess is a gritty, unwavering collection featuring 12 of the most enduring Chess Records anthems. Dripping with sweaty, booze-and-nicotine-soaked three chord garage blues, The Morlocks Play Chess isn’t some teeny bopper karaoke bullshit. The album’s sloppy fascinations and recognizable, sing along choruses are teeming with and honest, unbridled agony and ass-shaking ecstasy that is the essence of true rock and roll.
Through the twists and turns of rock and roll’s unending stretch of highway, The Morlocks have proven themselves to be road warriors and survivors. Today, as they prepare to take on the world, The Morlocks continue to see themselves being placed in the ranks of the most mysterious, respected and legendary American garage punk bands.

When The Morlocks Play Chess in your city, you’re going to need lots of cold beers and some dry towels standing by when the show is over. And, yeah… save some for the band as well.