Moron Police’s latest album, A Boat on the Sea, completely took me by surprise. The band consists of Sondre Skollevoll (vocals, guitars, keys, percussion), Lars Bjørknes (keys, pianos, organ, percussion), Thore Omeland Petterson (drums), and Christian Fredrik Steen (bass). I was already a huge fan of Major Parkinson, so it was a surprise to see Sondre and Lars in Moron Police, but as I familiarized myself with the music, the parallels became more clear.
The little I knew about the band made me unsure of what their sound would be. With song names like “Steve Jobs is Dead, But I’m Not” and “T-Bag Your Grandma”, I’ll be honest- I was expecting them to sound like Dead Kennedys. As I dug into their discography, I noticed that the previous efforts were sophomoric and charming, like the musical equivalent of Bluto Blutarsky from Animal House. But their latest album, A Boat on the Sea, represents a band that has matured without losing their essence, and polished their sound and style to the point where they’ve turned a new page in their development. The lyrical topics range from silly to existential, from drone strikes, to religion, to the family dog.
I was immediately grabbed by album opener, “Hocus Pocus”. The harmonies, combined with the contemplative lyrics (loosely based on the Kurt Vonnegut’s book Hocus Pocus) and music, are lush and gorgeous. “The Phantom Below” has become one of my most listened-to tracks this summer/fall. Though it might reduce my already non-existant “prog” credibility, I’ve always been a fan of Barenaked Ladies, especially in their more thoughtful moments like “If I Fall”. This song gives me a bit of a They Might Be Giants/Barenaked Ladies vibe, along with the poppy, anime influenced melodies of Sithu Aye. I adore this song.
“Captain Awkward” is still highly melodic, but it’s quirkier and more fusion-y than other tracks on the album. The first verses are almost Zappa-esque, and the song progresses into a Cardiacs-like sonic journey, until the song ends in a big melodic finish.
I feel the need to mention “The Dog Song”, which still retains some of the hyperactive energy of the previous iterations of the band, and the silly, absurdist lyrics that were a defining characteristic of their earlier work. The song is told from the point of view of a domesticated dog, who at one point (SPOILER ALERT) insists he’s planning on leading a bunch of pack animals on a killing spree. The happy, jazzy melodies counter the occasional lyrical absurdity.
My favorite track of all is the album closer, “Isn’t It Easy”. I think it encapsulates everything that succeeds about this record: strong, technical melodic lines, beautiful harmonies that ring, and lyrics that are somehow both heartfelt and off-the-wall. It also brings back several of the melodies throughout the album, including one introduced in the opener, and then closes in a grand, epic finish.
Moron Police was probably 2019’s biggest musical surprise yet for me. Progressive rock can be overly brooding and intense, and Moron Police represents a group of musicians who take the music seriously, but don’t take themselves seriously, which is incredibly refreshing. As sardonic as the lyrics can be, the music exudes a level of hyperactivity and exuberance and manic joy that I haven’t heard since Mr. Bungle’s California. Please check out this album.