Mad Max by Morricone YouthRelease date: January 27, 2017
Label: Country Club Records
Morricone Youth’s new tribute to the classic 1979 movie, Mad Max, is a fun, kitschy ride sure to curl your lips into a big toothy grin. The musicianship is superb. The band’s use of vintage synths and time appropriate recording equipment creates an ambiance that while a throwback to years past, remains a fresh, highly listenable, reinvention of the original.
The album’s mood shares more with the band’s namesake, Ennio Morricone, Italian composer of the music for legendary spaghetti westerns like The Good the Bad and the Ugly (not to mention Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight), than it does with the post-apocalyptic beachscapes of Eastern Australia. This is by design. The band loved Brian May’s original score and saw no obvious need for alteration. However, having spent years writing and rewriting dozens of film scores that they typically play live while films are screened, they’d become keen on doing a spaghetti western. Unfortunately, westerns don’t put bums in seats the way they used to. Modern consumers accustomed to underground transport, air conditioning, cubicle work, apartment living, and no sense of what open space looks like, much less a real live animal, just can’t relate. Theater owners were reluctant. Mad Max done spaghetti western style? Now we’re talking.
So, imagine an MFP (which apparently stands for Main Force Patrol…of course it does…) interceptor chasing down the dastardly Nightrider or one of Toecutter’s motorcycle gang, but it’s a sweaty, gnarled Clint Eastwood doing the driving, not Max. You get the picture (if you don’t’ and have no clue what I’m writing about, I recommend finding a copy of the movie and watching it again. You won’t regret it…much).
The album is quite short, registering only 39 minutes. It is the highlights of the score, with movements tuned into coherent songs that can be released as singles or played live at a rock club as the band intends to do in the near future. And it is one of a series of records the band plans to release over the next eighteen months, all written around movies they love (two others, The Adventures of Prince Achmed and Night of the Living Dead were released in 2016).
To me the standout track is the first one, ‘Halls of Justice’, because it’s weird and I like weird shit. Normal people will probably gravitate to ‘Mad Goose’, which is fast paced and danceable and could be a Holy Fuck or a !!! song (minus the vocals), or ‘Clune’s Town’, because it’s just so damned drenched in marinara. But worry not. This is the chunky organic Trader Joe’s stuff that’s good for you and made with real ingredients. ‘Nightrider’ and ‘Johnny the Boy’ are also fun tracks that would be well played at any party.
This makes sense because Morricone Youth began as a party band and still carry evident remnants of these roots. While over the years they morphed into a more serious outfit, focused on musically reinterpreting classic movies and sporting a roster of excellent session staffers that can be called upon for live performances, they remain at heart a party band.
If you haven’t already moved to Canada post the Donald Trump election, the band will be playing several shows in Brooklyn, New York. Check your local listings. Meanwhile vinyl versions of the band’s releases are available in most sensible countries.