November 29, 2002

Morella's Forest "Tiny Lights of Heaven"

Back in the "day," big record labels raped and plundered a lot of great bands in the name of Alternative Rock. Bands that were great, but really weren't strong enough or well-developed enough to be major contenders. Bands such as, oh, I dunno, let's think of a few...Belly...The Cardigans...Juliana Hatfield 3...Frente...That Dog...well, I could do this for a few more lines, but I think you get the point. Lots of great bands who were cute and poppy, but didn't have any staying power.

Morella's Forest are veterans of that era, and it's really a shock that they didn't get swallowed up and spit out by all of those sharks looking for the cute and sexy next big one hit wonder thing. Certainly, they had the "it" that A&R types were looking for: cute girl with baby-coo voice, a loose, rock-lite backing band that served as backing for the girl, and lyrics that were smart and sassy. Their previous album, From Dayton with Love, was a pop hit that never happened. But that was several years ago, and none of those previous bands exist anymore. So maybe it was a good thing, then, that Morella's Forest didn't get subjected to this hit machine.

Now in a class by themselves, Morella's Forest have returned--but several years have passed between albums, and that girl-pop alterna-rock sound now sounds dated. Tiny Lights of Heaven might run the risk of suffering from an identity crisis. Less polished than From Dayton With Love, Tiny Lights of Heaven is certainly mature, but in "Choppy" when Sydney sings, "Do you even know who it is you really are?/Are you lost out in the night," I can't help thinking that she's talking about the band's direction. I have the feeling that this album's birth was a long and difficult process, and with lyrics like that, I also can't help but feel that Morella's Forest might have suffered from some sort of identity crisis themselves.

You can't really fault Morella's Forest for making music, nor can you fault them for trying something new. There are some great songs on Tiny Lights of Heaven, such as the could-be-a-hit "Hopeless" and "Love is Blind," and the fact that Sydney's singing is a sweet coo that recalls Sarah Shannon and Nina Piersson only make it better. Sure, the occasional slips are annoying, but it's like riding a bicycle--you are going to slip every now and then if you haven't ridden one in a few years. Tiny Lights of Heaven is a promising return to form from a band that has withstood the test of time and the temptations that lured so many other bands to their demise.

--Joseph Kyle

No comments: