Ah, Berkeley, CA. Home of the Free Speech Movement, "People's Park," Green Day, Michael Chabon, and "Indigenous People's Day." That's right, instead of Columbus Day, the fine Liberal folks of Berkeley celebrate "Indigenous People's Day." Not surprising coming from a town that only had 4,000 out of 102,000 people vote for our current President in 2004. Now my friends let me introduce to you Berkeley's newest export. No, it's not Peet's Coffee. Tt's The Morning Benders.
The Morning Benders are a quartet whose influences are very much in the vein of '60s and '70s pop and rock. Lead singer Chris Chu sounds like Mike Love (in a good way), Marc Bolan, and Alex Chilton all at the same time. Their EP, Loose Change, is full of promise. Great songwriting and melodies make for some incredibly catchy songs that a fan of Voxtrot will drool over.
"Grain Of Salt" starts with a pounding drum beat that leads into one of the better songs I've ever heard while doing a review for Tripwire. It's a catchy as hell tune that isn't trying to be catchy at all. Chu's voice is double tracked and I can't help but think of The Beach Boys' worst idea ever, Mike Love. But Chu's voice is much more limber and sounds great on each track of the EP. "Grain of Salt" sounds like the Kinks, the Beach Boys, and the Beatles. But really, it doesn't sound like any of those bands. It's poppy and wears it influences on its sleeves, but it sounds too good to care or dissect it. Drummer, Tom Peyton, was obviously a fan of Sesame Streets' Animal as a child and it shows and works wonderfully.
My favorite track on the album is the last song, "Morning Fog." If Elliott Smith was from California and liked his life a little more, he would have written this song. It's a beautiful acoustic song that ends the EP perfectly. A magical melody and double tracked vocals sounds beautifully naive and poignant. You can picture a bunch of kids in the '60s wearing ponchos and cowboy hats while playing the guitar around a fire on the beach.
California bands always excite me. That is, if the band is not from a part of California that isn't Los Angeles. Los Angeles isn't part of California, let's be honest. California does something to its' musicians. The sun does wonders for the ability to write catchy songs that seem rid of pretension. I think I romanticize California a little too much, but hey, I'm allowed to do whatever the hell I want. I once was a Californian myself. I urge you to go check out this EP and if you don't do it now, I promise that you'll see and hear of this band again. They have a very bright future.