Mark Morriss album LP cover artwork“To be honest, I didn’t know what I was going to do. So I threw a lot of irons into the fire”. Since the break-up of the Bluetones in 2011, a band with an enviable career span that largely managed to avoid the Britpop roll call of the 90s, front man Mark Morriss has been exploring his options.

Despite this not being his first lone venture, A Flash of Darkness exposes a degree of insecurity not present since Memory Muscle, Morriss’ laid-back strings-infused début of 2008. It would be easy to say this is due to the Bluetones security blanket having been shrugged off, but whatever the reason, it has introduced a new facet to Morriss that offers his music an extra level of depth.

While the almost effortless pop tracks are certainly here, see ‘Consuela’ and ‘Space Cadet’, the album’s highlights lie in the tracks skirting his comfort zone, which he never entirely leaves throughout.

‘Low Company’ and ‘It’s Hard to be Good all the Time’ provide an example of how Morriss has toned-down his traditional finger-picked joviality to give breathing space to a more self-exploratory, introverted approach. This subtler combination really works and opens a new identity for Morriss as a singer-songwriter.

While many will feel dubious about The Shins’ ‘Pink Bullets’ being covered with a more upbeat delivery, the melancholia of the track and its reflection on the complexity of human relationships isn’t entirely lost among trumpets, percussion and beefed-up instrumentation. Morriss is showing some real balls covering such a cherished Shins track, risking a thorough fist-shaking from the self-righteous indie upper echelons.

The spur for his second album was described by Morriss as “that moment when you’ve just turned off the light and everything remains semi-lit for a split second”. However, this melancholia or generally unsettling force acting on a post-Bluetones Morriss may very well bring about his second coming as a musician.

7 out of 11

Release Date 24/02/2014 (Republic of Music)

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