It’s been at least a decade since mainstream rock radio has dedicated itself to popularizing credible music. Before the affectation of emo, the bland heaviness of nü-metal or the cookie-cutter familiarity of current alternative, grunge was king. It was a movement about rocking out with no concern for image. Now that mainstream rock has lost its way, bands like the Murdocks are the best chance rock radio has to regain its purpose.
With their second full-length album, Distortionist, the Murdocks harness the raw power of grunge, the energy of punk and the hooks of indie pop while still remaining accessible enough for the modern mainstream. Since the release of their critically acclaimed debut, Surrenderender, in 2005, frontman Franklin Morris has had to endure divorce, unemployment and losing the rest of his band. With the addition of Kyle Robarge on bass and David T. Jones on drums, the new three-piece is back and in top form.
It may be asking too much to expect the Murdocks to save rock radio, but with tracks like the bouncing garage rock of “Bloodsicle” and the Weezer-esque “Where Are You Now,” they could pull it off. Distortionist is 15 songs long, but there isn’t a single second of wasted space. From the soft-loud dynamics of “Lords” to the mosh-ready histrionics of “Die Together,” the Murdocks seem to have more in common with the underground scene in late-1980’s Seattle than with anything played in the background of an MTV reality show.
You can argue that every good alternative and indie rock band from 1990 on has tried to be the Pixies. Such is the case here, with the Murdocks proudly wearing their influences on their sleeves. Distortionist is groundbreaking not because of its originality, but because of its return to the sound of the glory days of FM radio. If rock radio wants to regain any sense of relevance, it should take note.