The thing I liked so much about The Morning After Girls’ first album, which had the rather utilitarian name of The Prelude EPs, 1 & 2, was the way it could be both raw and delicate at the same time. Here was an Aussie band firmly in thrall to the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols, and all their progenitors and spore. But that was a long time ago, as Sacha Lucachenko and Martin B. Sleeman shed and gained new band mates, moved, more or less permanently, to New York, and over the course of the last few years, methodically kept the flame alive.
We’re glad they did, because Alone is a beautiful bit of artisanal crafting, bespoke tailoring on a classic last. There’s good news and bad news here. The good news is that they write oft-times brilliant songs — I’ve been grokking on “Who Is They” for months, and the title track is as great a bit of mid-90’s Britpop as anything Noel Gallagher would have produced after a three-day binge. I hear echos of the Stone Roses, the Charlatans UK, Luna, maybe even Spiritualized: good company. The bad news is that some of the rawness has been sandpapered smooth. Sacha and Martin sing very pretty harmonies, and one doesn’t often complain about good singing, but in this case it sometimes sounds pretty for the sake of it.
When they want to, they still can rock — “Death Processions,” for example, packs a wallop. The show I saw in January at the Mercury Lounge was ear-splitting and occasionally thrilling. And they have the classicist’s memory of how bands like the Beatles and the Stones really stuck in your mind — it wasn’t just the hooks, the chorus, the solos, it was those tantalizing outros, making you hark your ear toward the speaker as the song fades away. Oasis knew this from the start, but not many other bands do, nor do they have producers who understand the vaudevillian’s mantra of always leave them wanting something more.
It’s been a long time coming, a long strip tease, as some of these songs have for months been streamable on their web site. This is a band that, with the proper management and a little luck, could be huge. Based on the pleasures they offer, they deserve to be huge. I just hope they don’t forget where they come from. I don’t mean Australia, I mean raw and thrilling. Bands too pretty leave me cold.