As much as Twitter drives me crazy at times, one of the things I do like about it has been the thousands of musicians and bands I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know over the past seven-plus years I’ve been active on that platform. A great many of those musicians and bands are enormously talented, and some are also genuinely gracious and kind, and one act who checks both boxes is Morning Fuzz, an outstanding rock band from Long Island, NY. Formed in 2009 by singer/songwriter & guitarist Frank Fussa and bassist Chris Johanidesz after the breakup of their previous band Ultra High Frequency, Morning Fuzz was a short while later joined by longtime friend and guitarist Michael Cullari, then went through several changes in drummers (something that’s plagued many a band I’ve written about). Between 2009 and 2013, they released two EPs and an album Chasing Ghosts, then went quiet for a few years, I’m guessing largely due to work and family obligations.
They returned to making music in 2016, and since then have been releasing singles in fits and starts. They followed me on Twitter in early 2017, and shortly thereafter released their single “Silent Sun”, a fantastic song I reviewed and liked so much, it ended up ranking #69 on my 100 Best Songs of 2017 list. They followed up with a Christmas single “Magical Christmas Time”, and another single “Fellow Creep”, then went quiet again after yet another drummer left. They appear to have finally struck gold in 2018 when drummer Dan Leonardi came on board, and their lineup has remained intact since then. In 2019, they released a terrific single “I’ll Be Around”, which I also reviewed, and which also charted on my Weekly Top 30, ending up at #71 on my 100 Best Songs of 2019 list. They dropped another single “Field of Frowns” later that year, then in February 2020 returned to the studio to record their second album Wherever We Go, and we all know what happened next. Halfway into the recording process, Covid hit and everything came to a halt.
Once restrictions were lifted, they went back to working on the album on weekends or whenever the studio was free, finally finishing with recording in late 2020. Frank then set to work mixing the album himself. He recalled “I would come home from work everyday and just start mixing until all hours of the night. Then we sent the album out to The Lodge to get mastered. It took another year just to get that done and the vinyl copies produced. In the meantime we released three singles from the album and filmed a video for ‘Don’t Wait Up’. Then we did a live video for ‘Love To Hate You’ from our band studio, then shot another video for ‘Vigo’ (which they released this past December). After releasing only singles since our debut album, we wanted to make a full album that was meant to be heard as a whole, even though that seems to be dying out these days. We wanted to make a no skipper album with every song solid and engaging. Hopefully we lived up to the task. I think we did.”
Well, after listening to Wherever We Go several times, I certainly think they’ve succeeded, as all 11 tracks are superb. In preparation for writing this review, I went back and re-listened to their entire back music catalog, and was reminded of how good this band is. It’s also remarkable how long – with the exception of their drummer – this band has been together. In addition, they’ve written and recorded at least 37 songs over the years, which I think is a heck of a lot for a band that’s gone through a few periods of inactivity.
The album blasts open with the aforementioned “Vigo” a rousing rocker that sets the tone for the album, both musically and thematically. Frank told me the album is essentially about time, both in terms of how it seems to be moving way too fast, but also the need to try and make the most of it while we’re here. It also addresses his constant struggle to be more positive. All those subjects resonate strongly with me, and these lyrics really hit the mark: “We were young and we had high hopes. Where did all of the time go? Fazed out amongst the people. Left out, wherever we go. We’re chasing moving cars, forgetting who we are. Sold out the lucid dreame. The grass is never greener.” I love the hard-driving rhythms, fortified by Dan’s smashing drumbeats, Chris’s aggressive bassline, and Frank and Michael’s blazing guitars. I also like that all members of the band sing, with Chris, Michael and Dan’s backing harmonies beautifully complementing Frank’s raw, impassioned vocals. Finally, several aspects of the song, at least to my ears, call to mind some of the music of the Foo Fighters and Thirty Seconds to Mars.
Next up is “Don’t Wait Up“, which Frank says is “about the ever changing world with fads, styles, opinions, and everyone trying so hard to fit in or be a part of something because they feel like they have to. The message is, be yourself, do what you love, and don’t be pressured to try to fit in.” The song opens with Chris’s tasty little bass riff, then explodes with raging guitars and crashing percussion as Frank alternately croons and wails the lyrics: “It’s hard to sit through all of this noise. Everyone’s in love with their own voice. They jump the line and can’t sit still. Run along now, go get your fill. Don’t wait up.” I like that their videos feature mostly footage of them performing their songs, rather than trying to act out some some silly plot line, and this one nicely showcases their energy and charisma.
“Love To Hate You” is another terrific banger, with a stomping groove overlain with gnarly and jangly guitars and more of Dan’s explosive drums. Frank’s vocals are more emphatic than ever here, as he wails the lyrics about a person who’s deeply devoted to and wrapped up in something or someone, but that no matter how how they try, they cannot reach their goal or gain acceptance from that other person. Despite repeated attempts that go unnoticed or keep getting beaten down, the frustrated individual just can’t give up or let go, no matter what, often feeling caught between conflicting feelings of adoration and loathing. “It’s hard to face you. But we are going to make it after all. Because I love to hate you. I’ve hit a hundred walls, but I’ll climb a hundred million more cause I was made to.”
I think my favorite track on the album is “Sailing In“, a beautiful rock song with gorgeous chiming guitars and vocal harmonies. The song speaks to that rapid passage of time addressed earlier, and also how people come in and out of our lives, leaving their imprints on our souls and psyches: “Foot steps, reverse, come back, it all just starts to blend. Old memories or deja vu that comes again. I feel the wind, I feel like I’m just sailing in to find myself stuck in that same old bar of sand. Who knows where we are? Fools gold in our hearts, no time to play pretend. These faces come and go.”
This theme is further explored on “Calling All Cars“, in which Frank emphatically admonishes another to stop wasting their precious time: “I hear, you hear all those same words but in different tones. You see, I see the same world in a different light. You choosing your fights. Our minds, we’re losing our minds. Your time, you’re wasting you’re time and your life! Cars, calling all cars! Your time is precious, follow your heart.” I really like the stark contrast between the lilting harmonies and aggressive wails in the bridge.
Another favorite is “Last Night, Today’s Dust“, a lively, melodic rocker about sticking together through good times and bad: “We were caught in the rain. We will get through these days. We can’t force all the stars to align, but I’ll always be by your side. We will live in the now. We’ll erase all the doubts. No ifs, no buts, no other way.” This song has a strong Foo Fighters vibe, and Frank’s vocals even sound a bit like Dave Grohl’s in spots.
One of the most powerful tracks on the album is “Give Me Electric“, which articulates some of Frank’s songwriting challenges: “[it] probably comes from the most negative state of mind out of all of the songs. Struggling to feel inspiration, every day felt like groundhogs day. Creativity was not flowing. But life gets like that and it always jumps back. After hearing the song recorded, I felt fucking great!” The lyrics speak of wanting to feel those sparks – whether they be creative, romantic, or whatever – that inspire us to do better and feel alive: “Give me electric. Shock me up so I can feel alive, because I fear that I’m fading away. Because I feel that I’m fading away.”
“Test Fire” is a poignant song acknowledging the pain caused to another, and asking for forgiveness: “I bottomed out, I let you down. For all the grief I’m sorry. Turn the page, don’t turn away. If I should shout please drown me out.” As it’s title suggests, “Manic Dramatic” features a frantic beat and lyrics touching on the risks of always living life on the edge: “We can be so erratic. We’re manic, dramatic./ As we pick a vice, we pay the price, oh do we. Somewhere down the line, our fate is blind, we’ll see. Worry all of our lives. Will we be alright?“
Wherever We Go closes with “Strange Nights“, a beautiful, bittersweet rock song that’s also the longest track on the album. The song starts off gently, with a brief spacey synth that’s soon replaced by a delicate acoustic guitar and Frank’s plaintive vocal. Eventually the music ramps up as he laments about a relationship broken beyond repair, adding that he never intended to hurt his partner: “Right way, wrong way. Too tough to balance out. My way, your way, it doesn’t matter now to me./ There we were with all we had. Holding on to something that was wrong. And here I am, with all I have. I never meant to cause you any harm.“
Morning Fuzz have come roaring back with Wherever We Go, a stellar work that further solidifies their already impressive rock credentials. They’re a great band, and I’m so proud of them for putting out such a strong, expertly crafted work as this.
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