The Murdocks are unmistakably a garage rock band. Punk, blues, grunge, and pop weave their way from time to time into their sound, but at the heart of it, the Murdocks are simply loud, dirty, and catchy. They favor fuzz-drenched guitars, distorted vocals (yes, a la Strokes), simple basslines, and lots of cymbals in the mix.
This Austin trio’s debut LP is not perfect, but promising. Its strongest and most consistent element is lead singer Franklin Morris’ voice, which manages to be expressive and acrobatic while retaining the requisite fierceness of true garage vocals.
Just a few minutes in, opener “The Saddest Star” (mp3) was already slated to appear on The Next Big Mixtape I’m working on. More catchy and refined than the rest, it begs to be heard. Why this song is not on the radio I DO NOT KNOW. “Bloody Murder” is pure punk-garage rock, and seriously folks, rock and roll doesn’t get much more fun than this. Three chords, lots of distortion, subtle melody: it sounds good, it sounds mean, and it just rules. By contrast, “Da Da,” “My Scarlet Purse,” and “Death of a French Whore” (mp3) are too clearly derivative of some of the bands that inform the Murdock’s sound. These selections fail on record and would likely work better in a live setting, where the inner critic is drowned out by booze and body movement.
Surprisingly, the final two songs don’t sound anything like the rest of the record. “Easter Moon” (mp3) is just Morris and his acoustic guitar, while the untitled hidden track – another Morris solo vehicle – patters along to the pained cadence of a sullen keyboard. Together they prove that the Murdocks can do more than just crank it up to 11 and rock. But out of context the songs aren’t worth half as much.
When you get down to the nitty gritty, the Murdocks do often sound too much like their influences and peers. But this is a young band whose second album I would really be interested in hearing. A lot of talent went into this record, and there are likely many more ideas brewing somewhere below the surface that didn’t make it onto Surrenderender. This is a fine effort, and I have the distinct sense that the Murdocks can do much better.