Morality Crisis is one of the weirdest groups around, and the Minneapolis trio’s latest, MASH, only solidifies that status. But, unlike many bands that strive for the bizarre, Morality Crisis’ music never feels contrived. MASH is also American in the best possible sense, deftly interweaving an array of sounds that have been bubbling within the US underground for the past 40 years.
The four-song album starts with “Cannons Fall On Cannons Fall,” a track that writhes with mid-paced, Am Rep-style noise rock before sucker punching you with skin-charring d-beat. Just as quickly, the trio devolves into caustic sludge, which is emphasized by a sing-along that sounds like something a crew of good ole boys might shout while huffing ether and romping through the woods in a lifted Bronco. “Gas” hops with a similar ADD frenzy as guitarist-vocalist Pete Noteboom unleashes leads that move with the unpredictability of a deflating balloon. Chris Woznicki punctuates each section with precise drumming, illustrating that Morality Crisis is always in control of its madness.
As you’d guess, the 22-minute long “MASH” is the heart of this release. Jordan Koch-Engstrom leads the band into a misanthropic trudge with an obstinately simple bass line and vocals that sound like a Yeti doing an impersonation of Neil Fallon. In his mountain-man yawp, Engstrom yells, “I went to space and bought / a bunch of useless shit.” While the bassist reverts to incoherent cave growls, Noteboom howls like a man that’s getting his skin ripped off in an industrial accident. This sludge-a-thon then coalesces around Woznicki’s tom abuse and some of the nastiest group vocals I’ve ever heard. “Fucking / Illinois / Bastard!” the band screams. Like The Melvins’ early material, MASH is rife with shit-eating irony that works to enhance its nihilism.
With tendrils of grating noise, Noteboom pushes the band into high-energy noise ’n’ roll. Following another flurry of changes, including a maniacal tempo build, Morality Crisis transitions into a KARP-style groove that also drips with a 70s prog sensibility, quickly building into a section that sounds like My Bloody Valentine playing a Darkthrone cover. But all of this is only the tip of the iceberg with this epic track, which could easily function as an album in itself.
MASH closes with “Cowboy Song.” Driven by a barrage of tom-heavy drumming, the song spins like the teeth of a wood chipper, featuring riffs that are equally abrasive and catchy. Like a tweaker telling his life story, the band jumps from point to point with seeming randomness—but also in a way that makes it impossible to stop listening. “Cowboy Song” ends with a malevolent two-step that perfectly embodies Morality Crisis’ own description of its music: “Homegrown shitrock from the heartland.”
The terms “one of a kind,” “unique,” and “original” get passed around between music writers like joints at a Phish concert, but Morality Crisis is one of the few bands that actually earn those labels. Fuck it all. Stop what you’re doing and buy MASH right now.