T. Hardy Morris: Dude, The Obscure

Don’t let the whole Dude thing fool you, because there aren’t many stoned-out Lebowski-isms on this album.

T. Hardy Morris
Dude, The Obscure
(New West)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The title of Dude, The Obscure is a play on Jude, The Obscure by Morris’ partial namesake Thomas Hardy. (The T. is short for Thomas.) Don’t let the whole Dude thing fool you, because there aren’t many stoned-out Lebowski-isms on this album. Morris is definitely a deep-thinking songwriter, but his thoughts are eloquently strung together in his lyrics, which do nothing less than try to make sense of life’s strange ironies and thornier truths.

Musically, Morris falls somewhere between the rambling psychedelia of Kurt Vile and the meticulous art-rock of The War On Drugs. A lot of his songs, if you broke them down past the gauzy production techniques and the ethereal reverb hung on the vocals, resemble country and western, with steel whining away on the margins and melodies that come to reassuring resolutions. Morris also possesses a deadpan ache in his voice which makes the revelations he unearths in his lyrics seem like hollow victories.

Occasionally, the music breaks out into euphoria, notably on “Homemade Bliss,” where he defends his worldview: “Call it content, call it ignorance/ I call it homemade bliss.” But more often than not, regret creeps into the picture. On “The Night Everything Changed,” he frets over the damage done during drunken revelries, while “No Reason” finds him peering up at a “sky empty of doubt” while he seems to be consumed by it.

Dude, The Obscure gets stronger as it goes, its second half filled with laments both specific (the complaint about a big-city wannabe in “NY”) and vague (the overarching malaise of “Lit By Midnight.”) The final two songs are both downers, but “4 Days Of Rain” and “Purple House Blues” are rendered so effectively you won’t mind meeting them at their heart-hurt level. Morris even admits on the former that “my poetry is so bleak.” Bleak and profound beats happy and vapid any day.