30 Years of Morphine’s Cure for Pain
Written by Mia De Los Reyes on September 22, 2023
On Sept. 14, 1993, Morphine released their second studio album, Cure for Pain. Morphine was a band based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In the 90s Radiohead, Pixies, The Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, Pavement, and Nirvana were on the rise, creating a surge of alternative music. Morphine made alternative tracks with a unique twist.
In 1989, lead vocalist Mark Sandman, saxophone player Dana Colley, drummer Billy Conway, later replaced with Jerome Deupree were on a journey to create a new sound. Morphine stirred with the soul that comes from both blues and jazz, while seeping with loud emotion from what could be considered alternative rock. Their skill developed from the first released album, “Good” (1992) to the last release “The Night” (2000.) Coining the term “low rock” for themselves, they maintained their signature sound and use of jazz elements all throughout their discography.
Photo by Dennis Stein
Specifically, the album Cure for Pain, didn’t really use a guitar. An emphasis on the different characteristics the band exhibited, breaking some rules in the rock genre. Sandman used a two-string bass, but this didn’t limit the band at all.
Cure for Pain provides the listener with a new window into the world of jazz while mixing the best features of alternative rock music. The album begins with a minute long instrumental mysterious melody of Colley’s saxophone. Immediately following in “Buena”, the drums kick in and Sandman’s deep voice levels the song perfectly. The musical skill and lyricism itch the listeners brain in the best way. Each song tells a story of its own, while sticking to the same theme, the endeavor of finding a cure for pain. The albums lyricism ranges in harsh realities of drug addiction, heartache, suicide, or depression but also touches the mystifying and alluring feeling of love.
“In Spite of Me,” uses a mandolin to evoke a bittersweet yearning. Through the bands venture in exploring and combining different musical characteristics, the listener finds different ways to connect to this record. The last song, “Miles Davis’ Funeral,” may be a reference to the famous jazz musician who passed two years prior to the album’s release. Ending the same way it began, an instrumental piece closes the curtain on Cure for Pain and leaves the listener in a strange bittersweet silence. Cure for Pain made commotion not only in the music world, but in TV and film. “Buena,” is played in season one of The Sopranos, “Thursday,” in Beavis and Butt-head, “Shelia” and “In Spite of Me,” is also used in the indie film Spanking the Monkey.
Photo by Discogs
Mark Sandman passed away on July 3, 1999, on stage in Italy. He is remembered by his former bandmates, family, and fans. They exceeded past expectation and surprised many by breaking boundaries within the rules of identifying as just one genre. With vocals from Sandman, and the proper execution of skill in each musician, Morphine blended genres well. The artistry in Morphine’s music is undoubtedly elusive and will never cease to receive appreciation for their distinctive sound.
Photo by Bob Berg/Getty Images