The eleven songs on Marrow’s debut album, The Gold Standard, take up the jazz and rock ends of the spectrum, freewheeling between the two from song to song or even within them. Opener ‘She Chose You’ is pure rock bliss, harkening to the ethos of 90s indie rock. Sung by Liam Kazar, it has a driving electric rhythm and lighthearted piano that transforms into a boisterous chorus supported by cascading a-a-ahs from Macie Stewart. Then, suddenly the rhythm guitars cut out and it’s in with these electronic fragments, going in circles for no more than ten seconds, adding a bit of 21st century playfulness.
On the next song, ‘Darling Divine’, lead vocal duties go to Macie Stewart, starting with tinkly piano, a bass line on a mission, and the jazzy voice of Stewart. That’s just the verses though, because the song alternates between these rainy Sunday morning snippets and full-blown free-for-alls. The latter is punctuated with guitar screeches and wails, tom rolls bookended by high hat slams, and a closing eerie spidery guitar run and jabbed keys. Oh, I can’t neglect to mention Stewart’s voiceless guttural scream, like something out of a Japanese horror film. Unnerved by all the mess around him, there’s Lane Beckstrom plugging away with that steady bass line, tempo unchanged, a note a beat. Such see-sawing isn’t restricted to this song. Similarly, ‘Mother of Maladies’ is another jazzy tune until you come to the raucous breaks supplemented with orbiting electronic blips and labyrinthian melodies.
Then on the title track, vocal duties are shared. There’s a spine-chilling moment after the first verse where the instruments stop in one sweeping movement and you figure that it’s the curtain raiser to another instrumental assault. Yet, while the electric rhythm guitar is more energised, it quickly passes. Marrow tease you a bit before building up again in the middle, using escalating keys that pass on the torch—listen, it’s as deft as a cat’s leap—to rampaging guitars.
Later on, Marrow surprises again with ‘Ocean of Glory’. It’s charming folksy opener is ripe for sing-along status with lyrics that roll of your tongue: ‘I am the son of a unholy mother, she calls me names and she killed my brother, takes my hand and throws me under, when she’s gone I shall have no other’. While the song sounds like a folk tale, they bring us back into modernity with a line like ‘Take a trip to your family blood line, we’ll look it up on your phone in no time’. Keys (Lane Bekstrom also) knead and weave with the toil of a baker shaping dough. Beneath the chorus, Kazar’s other tracked vocals include gospel-like echos of ‘glory’ and him shouting into a megaphone. You feel like you’re in a church right until the 5th minute where ominous keys fade to be replaced by arpeggiating synths and frantic drumming in accelerando.
Seattle gave us Nirvana. Nashville has its country, New York its history of counterculture. Los Angeles is a bottomless barrel of industry in it. I know they’re over-generalisations but the arrow isn’t far off the mark. Chicago, however, gave us everything from gritty blues, to nighthawk jazz, via the rawest of punk rock, not to mention Kanye West. Dave Grohl calls the city a music mecca. Intentionally or not, Marrow have got Chicago in their veins.
Morrow The Gold Standard is out September 4 on Foxhall Records.