I am not a fan of digital only releases, the crusty ol’ codger that I am (rusting away in my late 20s). Needless to say, I eyed The Morning Benders‘ Grain of Salt EP with more than a little skepticism. If it wasn’t good enough for a disc, how could it be worthy my time? Truth be told, I didn’t give it a chance for close to a month. It sat fallow on my computer’s hard drive, waiting for the right moment to grab an ear. Oddly, it took another digital only release to gather my attention, but more on that later.
Right now, all you need to know is the Grain of Salt EP is worth $5 at Amazon, iTunes, eMusic or wherever your little mouse can find it . . . five songs for $5 and the album art isn’t bad, either.
Where The Morning Benders really chalk up a win is with their obvious Brian Wilson/Beach Boys influences. While everybody else is pilfering The Beatles sound, The Benders are quietly ripping off the group that inspired Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Since Pet Sounds is frequently cited as the best pop record to date, it’s odd The Beach Boys aren’t ripped-the-hell-off more often. Grain of Salt isn’t a clone (and that’s good), but it’s clear where its allegiances lie: dreamy reverb in the guitars, harmony (though, to be fair, nothing in comparison to The Beach Boys) and thoughtful mixing and arrangement.
“Grain of Salt” may start the record out and carry the namesake, but it doesn’t typify the record, and it isn’t even the best version of the track on the collection. The transcendental (and eponymous) “A Song” takes top honors. The arpeggiated picking, the slow lyrical delivery and the splash and tickle of the drums brings it all back to the best of the ’50s high school prom anthems. This is, of course, when being played at a prom was a worthwhile pursuit, and grinding groins with someone wasn’t really considered dancing (Akon “Smack That”, anyone?).
It isn’t proper to say Grain of Salt is “tremendous” or “electrifying.” It won’t be considered for a “best of” list. It’s claim to fame is “above average” really, but sometimes, above average is good enough.
So what made me give the EP a listen? Word that The Morning Benders put out a free collection of covers called The Bedroom Covers. If that doesn’t make them nice guys, I don’t know what does. I’ll give nice guys a chance any day of the week. Here’s hoping they don’t finish last.