Smokin’ Morcheeba

MORCHEEBA at Revival (783 College), Monday (July 29), free. 416-535-7888. Rating: NNNNNPaul Godfrey is too diplomatic to admit it, but.


MORCHEEBA at Revival (783 College), Monday (July 29), free. 416-535-7888.

Rating: NNNNN

Paul Godfrey is too diplomatic to admit it, but you’ve got to figure this is payback time for Morcheeba. When their first album dropped in 1999, the trio of Paul and Ross Godfrey and lithe vocalist Skye Edwards were immediately dismissed by many as triphop copyists jumping on the Portishead bandwagon as it pulled out of town. Now, three years and three records later, Portishead is once again just the name of a west English town and Morcheeba are still making music.

What’s saved Morcheeba is that while their former contemporaries have struggled to keep themselves relevant, the trio’s sound has continued to evolve.

They moved from triphop into languid hiphop with massive success on 2000’s Fragments Of Freedom, collaborating with Biz Markie and selling millions of records in the process. The group’s new Charango (Warner) disc maintains that vibe in a more laid-back style, incorporating elements of library music, Brazilian beats and raw hiphop beats into Morcheeba’s slow groove sound.

“Fragments Of Freedom was a big experiment for us,” Paul Godfrey says from London while watching his son demolish a jam donut with hilarious results. ” We wondered what it was like to make those kinds of records and hear them on the radio all over the world, and we managed that.

“This record came out of more experimentation, specifically me staying home and buying loads of records. I took time off and didn’t go on the road to tour the last record. We really had to get our heads around the fact that we’re in this for the long haul and that making music wasn’t a get-rich-quick scenario.”

Having already been press darlings, Morcheeba were intimately familiar with the potential for quick burnout. Godfrey’s decision to remove himself from the equation briefly just as the band’s success was on the rise clearly was not taken lightly.

“I hated the whole pop star thing,” he admits. “Sure, it does have its advantages, like high-profile, disturbingly well-paid DJ gigs, free records and clothes and people kissing your ass. What’s the bad side, eh?

“It turns out that that’s a full-time job in itself, and to chase that kind of fame you’ve really got to want it. I don’t think I do.”

Of course, there are advantages to success. Owning your own studio and production company is nice. So is the ability to splash out cash to get one of your heroes onto your new album.

On Charango, Morcheeba lured in famously flamboyant old-school hiphop great MC Slick Rick to rhyme out the disquieting Women Lose Weight, a morality tale about a man who kills his wife because she’s too fat.

“We got in touch with him through Slick Rick Entertainment, which is actually his wife, Mandy,” Godfrey snorts. “He heard the backing track we’d submitted and called me when we were working in Germany. It was the most surreal conversation, talking to Slick fucking Rick, telling him that we wanted a track about a guy who killed his wife. He thought it was a great idea.

“We went to New York because Rick was worried that if he came to England he’d be deported and they wouldn’t let him back into America. He arrived at the studio without any gold chains or rings, but he had an eye patch on and the biggest diamond-encrusted Rolex you’ve ever seen. He was all class.”

The whole session sounds disturbingly easy, especially for a man of The Ruler’s notoriety.

“It was the same with Biz Markie,” Godfrey insists. “We thought we’d never get in touch with him, but it turned out he was really sweet. With Biz, it was a certain amount of money and a pair of Prada shoes.

“Halfway through our session with Rick, he said, “I’ve just got to nip out before the shops shut. I’ve got to get some new shoes.’ They’re all shoe-obsessed, these MCs.”mattg@nowtoronto.com

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