Anxiety of influence

By JON GARELICK  |  November 27, 2007

For me, the thing that’s always made the Morphine comparisons beside the point in any of Ortiz’s projects has been her distinctive presence as lyricist, bassist, singer, and live performer. Weaving in and out of her sinuous fretless bass lines is that deep, powerful alto, and lyrics full of dense narrative detail, startling images, and a personal, confessional streak: “Emptied out my mind on some porno back in ’89/Wait to masturbate/I hold my breath and hesitate.” It’s that kind of line (from the new album’s “Spanish Fly”) that makes you do a double take, like P.J. Harvey singing, “You leave me dry.” The explicitness is worlds away from Sandman’s minimalist, withholding hipster lingo. This is a guy, after all, who built an entire song around the single lyric “Every night about 11 o’clock I go out.”

As for the music, the band work that groovy thing, and as in Morphine, Colley steps up front with ripping guitar-like electric-baritone-sax solos. At times, as on the opening “Happiness,” the distortion takes on Sabbath-like stomp. At others, the band are all rhythm — Dersch and Colley locking in with Ortiz, getting inside the sex groove on “Spanish Fly,” or breaking into a near-Bo-Diddley-like boogie on “Sun Burns Out.” “It took us a while to feel not like three individuals playing together but like a real band,” Dersch offers. “When we jam now, you don’t feel like, ‘God, am I doing the right thing?’ That’s changed dramatically just over the past six months.”

And even though the sound of A.K.A.C.O.D. is familiar — as distinctive a style as heavy metal or bebop — the songs carry their own weight. Ortiz’s voice strains against her upper register, as in the ironically dark “Happiness,” or swims in double-tracked harmony with itself, as on “Cheer You On.” On “Hypnotized,” she’s in a bluesy storytelling mode. And on “Minor Key,” she’s singing electrified indie pop in her spooky couplets: “Happy songs are weaker than they seem/True love is always in a minor key.”

Colley also has writing credits on the album, helping Ortiz shape her songs and using his experience with Sandman to edit some of those wordy Ortiz lyrics. “This is the third time I’ve recorded ‘Minor Key,’ ” says Ortiz, “and the way it is with C.O.D. is the way it should have sounded from the beginning. I couldn’t have gotten to that point without Larry and Dana.”

A.K.A.C.O.D. + JEREMY LYONS | Church, 59 Kilmarnock St, Boston | December 6 | 617.236.7600

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