It’s one thing to make music inspired by the uber-catchy, post-punk-meets-radio-pop rock scene of the 80s and early 90s. It’s quite another to have launched your career within and around the birth of that scene. Sean McMorris has devoted decades to perfecting the best kind of pedigreed alt-rock and power pop. The guy knows his way around a tight, earworm tune with the same infectious bravado he brings to guitar, drums, and lyricism. He’s made music with rock heroes and cult figures alike, including a stint behind the drums for punk icon Richard Lloyd. McMorris recruited another rock luminary for his third album, C’est la Vie: XTC’s Dave Gregory drops no less than four lead guitar lines. McMorris relocated to LA in 2018, where he sits behind the kit for local rock stalwarts Billy Joseph & The Army of Love.
Here, McMorris molds the music to his message. In “Vortex,” he talks tension – the tightwire push-pull relationship between man and his own creations. The more we evolve, it seems, the more we regress. He tapped into a hooky, high-energy guitar rocker to capture the chaotic battle around tech that we all face in the 21st Century. The topic is more prescient than ever, but the timelessness of this McMorris track, true to his Beatles-Crowded House-modern indie style, would’ve been as sonically impactful ten years ago as ten years from now. The airtight drums and bass, a la the Pretenders or the Cars, a rock-solid pop framework, while the guitars stay stratospheric and the vocals have some fun with unexpected melody and cadence.
A song this well put together and performed doesn’t require a whole lot of window dressing and McMorris lets the lyrics and theme dictate the visuals. A flight attendant, duplicated to form a trio, symbolizes commercial air travel, and by extension, all the potential that the modern age hoped to offer. Her uniform, her moves, her smile, say, “Welcome to the future!” It evokes a twinge of nostalgia, for a day when we could be drawn into the promise of something better by something other than the little screen in the palm of our hand.
And if you need to get “Vortex” out of your head (good luck), be sure to check out the video for C’est la Vie’s title track. “C’est la Vie” is another instantly memorable guitar-driven gem that’s more emotionally weighted and more gracefully crafted than anything McMorris has done before.