Hi-N-Dry, 2004

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Forging a new musical identity is hard, especially when you lose an iconic central figure to your previous group. In the case of Morphine, the central figure was Mark Sandman, who created one of the 1990s most criminally underrated bands. He died onstage while performing in Rome in 2000.

After touring briefly under the name Orchestra Morphine (a sort of tribute to Sandman's legacy), remaining members Billy Conway (drums) and Dana Colley (sax) came together and created Twinemen. The signatures of Morphine remained (smoky sax, tight, minimal percussion), but the lead singer position was occupied by Laurie Sargent. Many critics and more than a few Morphine fans unfairly viewed their self-titled debut album as "Morphine with a female singer." However, with a few spins, you could hear a new group slowly emerge.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Sideshow, Twinemen's second album, continues to sound like a band still trying to find their strengths and play off them. The sexy atmosphere and melancholy lyrics that were present in virtually all of Morphine's albums is felt all over Sideshow. However, unlike Morphine's primarily 'bass, sax and drums' sound, Twinemen incorporates trombone, piano, keyboards, guitar, harmonica and organ.

The inclusion of so many instruments in their arsenal works in keeping listeners on their toes for the first couple of listens. Unlike Morphine's focused jams, Twinemen is a looser concoction, drawing comparisons to Ratdog and other jam bands. Some experiments, such as "Speed of Light" and "Saturday," would no doubt sound great on a live stage, but on the stereo, it's a soupy mess.

Still, when Twinemen put the focus on the rhythm, they're damn near unstoppable. The sexy vibe of "I Slept Through It" and "Benedict's Marching Band," are great testaments that the band will no doubt eventually be regarded as a separate entity and not forever be in the shadow of its members former band.

Sideshow definitely has a cohesive feel of an album. Unfortunately, the most appealing songs are at the beginning and the band finds itself experimenting more and more as the album goes along. "A Little Strange" gets things back on track in terms of rhythm, but Laurie Sargent's vocals are missing for much of the second half of the album. Billy Conway and Patina Willshine do a decent job vocal-wise, but it seems that Sargent just mysteriously vanishes, like a central figure of a movie who inexplicably disappears halfway through the movie and doesn't appear until after the climax.

For all its imperfections, Sideshow still is a worthy purchase. Hell, the imperfections are one of Sideshow's biggest charms. It's hard to tell what mood you need to be in to hear this mix of styles. A few scotches, a patient disposition and an open mind is definitely recommended. At the end, you are not too sure where Twinemen are headed in their next album, but your curiosity will no doubt be wetted after listening to Sideshow.

Rating: B-

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© 2004 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hi-N-Dry, and is used for informational purposes only.