Morel | The Death of the Paperboy (Outsider Music)

Morel christens his reinvention of the title track with the name "Shoegazer Disco," as good a shorthand summation of his sound as you’re likely to find.




The bulk of Richard Morel’s résumé may be packed with electronica bona fides—frequent collaborations with house music duo Deep Dish, a wildly popular DJ residency with rocker Bob Mould under the name Blowoff, countless remixes for the likes of New Order, Depeche Mode, Madonna, and the Killers under the name Pink Noise—but the music recorded under his own name refuses to be so easily pigeonholed. While his two previous solo albums, 2002’s Queen of the Highway and 2005’s Lucky Strike, sought to blend his rocker/DJ dual identity, Morel had a different aim with his latest, Death of the Paperboy: "I wanted to keep the genres separate," he explains, "so I could explore the elements of both without feeling the need to compromise the sound of either."

The final product isn’t quite as segregated as Morel would have you believe. "A Boy’s Reverie" opens the album with airy synths and echo-drenched vocals that intone "And I’m dreaming of love," a dancefloor-ready drumbeat kicking in to complete the chilled-out vibe. Once that song is out of the way, however, Morel kicks things into gear, opening "Flawed" with a squealing guitar that continues to pour out between his deadpanned vocals. The sheets of shimmering guitars and Morel’s detached singing give much of the album the shoegazer vibe of early Ride or Longwave. Not all of the guitars sparkle and shimmer: after a muted piano opening, the chorus of "Anymore, Anymore" hits with a chunky riff that chugs like a freight train, while "I’m So Low I Keep On Falling" pairs a dirty, Stones-y lick with a God Lives Underwater-style groove.

If the first disc was all that Death of the Paperboy had to offer it would already be a must-have, but Morel does one better by pairing the rockin’ "Disc-1" with the destined-for-the-dancefloor "Disc-O." On the cheekily-titled companion CD, Morel (under his nom de producer Pink Noise) remixes 7 of the first disc’s cuts and a well-chosen cover (David Bowie’s "Sweet Thing") into a non-stop, 54-minute DJ set. "Disc-O" does far more than merely tweak the songs with synths and drum machines, however. These songs share some lyrics and vocal melodies but are otherwise completely rebuilt from the ground up, with dynamic new arrangements, re-recorded vocals, and slick techno beats.

Morel christens his "Disc-O" reinvention of the title track with the name "Shoegazer Disco," as good a shorthand summation of his sound as you’re likely to find. Death of the Paperboy glides easily between its rocking and dancing alter egos, and its lyrics offer an introspective, autobiographical element often lacking from dance music without ever skimping on the hooks. Other than one minor misstep (the overly maudlin piano ballad "The Start Is the End") the album is virtually flawless, a muscular rock record that’s inventive, richly varied, and compulsively listenable. A | Jason Green


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