Morphine - Cure For Pain LP

(Rykodisc, 1993 - Light In The Attic/Modern Classics Recordings, 2011)


“Like a lot of other great bands, Morphine had a gimmick. In Morphine’s case, they were the band with the weird instrumentation: No guitars, just drums and baritone sax and Sandman’s two-string bass. Those instruments, combined with Sandman’s slippery husk of a voice, meant that Morphine were entirely and completely made-up of low end. Their songs sounded low-down and sinister and slithery, and Sandman was happy to play up that side of things.

Sandman was already well into middle-age by the time he and his band made Cure For Pain, and he’d been through some things: two dead brothers, a stabbing sustained when someone tried to rob the cab he was driving. In his voice, there was a world-wearing authority that sounded terribly sophisticated and badass to the young teenage me. On the title track, where he wearily croons that he’ll throw his drugs away the day they find a cure for pain, Sandman sounds lost but resigned, ready to slide into oblivion where someone like Cobain always sounded like he was fighting not to drown. On “Sheila,” he makes some truly goofy lyrics about a girl and her cat sound stark and suave and lascivious — an full-grown man reading high-school locker-room poetry and giving it everything he’s got. The song that sticks with me the most is the bittersweet relationship lament where the sax and drums take a breather and Sandman whispers sad affirmations over nothing more than a mandolin: “I always knew you would succeed no matter what you tried / And I know you did it all in spite of me.” There are a lot of emotions at work in that sentiment: Regret and resignation and displaced pride and scraped-out emptiness — and you can hear them all at work in his voice.” - Tom Breihan for Stereogum