"Shoegazer disco" is how Richard Morel, aka Morel, describes the sound of his outstanding new project The Death of the Paperboy. Morel, who has been doing remixes for years under the name Pink Noise, has just released this, his fifth album, the follow-up to 2004's outstanding Lucky Strike. Morel's credentials are second to none: He's been behind some of the best remixes of the past decade, for the likes of Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, Le Tigre, New Order and most recently a handful of tracks from Cyndi Lauper's excellent new dance album. His masterful blending of dance and rock have made him one of the most sought-after remixer/producers of our time and The Death of the Paperboy marks his strongest album of original material yet.
On the double-disc Paperboy, Morel musically separates his trademark mix of dance and rock. Disc one is pop-rock song oriented, while on disc two (dubbed "Disc-O." Get it?), Morel lets his dancefloor inclinations shine with amped-up, discofied versions of what's on disc one.
The separation of musical styles is intriguing indeed. Stripped of beats and effects, Morel's songcraft really stands out. On "Anymore, Anymore" he sings, "We can go for a walk/ And talk about the things that bring you down/ Like heaven and martinis/ And boys that hang around." Morel sings about modern life from a gay man's perspective, without for a second being camp or ironic. His plaintive voice is a bit of a sexy growl, but a captivating, meditative one at that. He's got the shoegazer part right.
Morel is not a singer's singer, nor does he perform vocal acrobatics. He's a Neil Tennant that way, albeit a rockier, baritone version. His voice draws you in with wistful, confessional tones which, like Tennant's, rely on finely honed instrumentation and perfect arrangements to make the music soar, as evidenced on "Falling off the Verge," where the marriage of strings and rock lift the song into the stratosphere.
On disk two the rock songs translate perfectly into dance versions, specifically because the best dance songs have always been a little melancholy. Morel's cover of David Bowie's "Sweet Thing" is a nice addition and works amazingly well as a dance-oriented track. On The Death of the Paperboy, Morel has really brought it: a meticulously crafted foray into dance and rock which at no point becomes boring or irrelevant. If anything, Morel is more relevant than ever.
If you like disco, The Smiths or New Order, this album is for you. Combine them, make it contemporary and there you have the genius of Morel.
The album releases Tue, Nov 4 but is available on iTunes now. Download these: "Anymore, Anymore," "I'm So Low I Keep Falling (Pink Noise Mix)," "Flawed," and "Sweet Thing."
The Death of the Paperboy.
Outsider Music. $18.