I always hated The Doors. Generally when I hate a band it means I’ve given them their time and tried several times to enjoy them because I hate it when I’m wrong so I like to really give things my all before passing such an extreme judgment. Believe it or not I do have three or four Radiohead albums because I was told after I’d listen to each one that such a one was better and you know what, they weren’t. I also have two Coldplay albums because I wanted to believe the hype and turned out I was right from the beginning about them too. The Doors however are a different story. I hadn’t ever given them a chance and the main song I knew, Light My Fire, was a little boring for my tastes. Then one faithful summer they found me.
I was staying at a friend’s house for a few weeks during the summer of 04 (all those years ago J) and he played the Doors constantly. After a few days of this and then a screening of the movie to help persuade me, I finally gave in. I wouldn’t say I turned total fanatic but just enough to make me buy every album over the following year and give each ones a good grilling. Honestly I never really picked a flat out favorite and only for the sake of this review have I picked their 67 self titled debut, The Doors.
If you don’t like the Doors yet, then opening song Break on Through will go along way in convincing you of their greatness. I’m not going to say it’s a full on, stampeding chaotic master piece because that just doesn’t do it justice…but it is all those things. It’s so full of energy and quiet / loud changes with underlining D word themes a go go. In sharp contrast, Soul Kitchen is everything the tin promises. A relaxed, stripped back verse of simple guitar and piano melodies with Jims voices croaking in the background before everything collapses together for a foot stomping chorus. At times it sounds like Johns drumming is too fast for Robby’s guitars and Ray’s keyboards but oddly enough, it all works perfectly. The Crystal Ship slips even further into the albums melon collie state. Jim’s deep voice booms over the music, haunting every change and note the band play. It’s no secret that a lot of the love people have for the Doors also relies heavily on the myths, stories and a general love for Morrison himself. He’s one of music’s true icons, appealing to people in all walks of life…except those who just don’t like him off course.
Twentieth Century Fox wouldn’t be one of my favorite tracks. It’s very plain compared to the albums first three songs and falls a little on its face amidst a mess of guitars and organ melodies. Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar), a cover of a Bertolt Brecht’s song (I’ve never heard of him either, don’t worry , is without a doubt one of the funniest songs they’ve ever recorded and could easily be used a sea chantey in the next Pirates or, if you’re like me, you have walked home many times from the pub singing this at full volume. Light My Fire follows and ya know…it’s good. Personally I think seven minutes was a bit much and the guys don’t really pull it off but many, many others would strenuously disagree so it depends from fan to fan. Back Door Man (written by Willie Dixon) on the other hand is one of the best songs they’ve ever recorded. Since it’s another cover, I won’t praise it too much in words or it may overshadow the other tracks I’ve written about….but god it’s a savage song.
I Looked At You sounds like something The Beatles could easily have come up with but still manages to retain some of the Doors quality. Not incredibly great but simple, fun pop. After all, many people forget the Doors did start of as a more a pop group than the bluesy poets they turned into. End of the Night is more of a definitive Doors piece. Broken melodies, slow changes, hits of spiraling melodies…etc. Again it’s not amazing but there’s more Doors atmosphere here than many of the songs. The best way you can describe a truly Doors-esque song is broken music and Jims lyrics. The sort of atmospheric, incoherent yet hauntingly good music they play in seedy L.A. bars at 4:00 in the morning. Take It As it Comes is one of the better tracks at the end of the album. The lyrics are bogged down in Jims over thinking and the music flows extremely well. Ray’s keyboards belt away behind Johns crashing drums and Jims iconic vocals.
I lied, I lied about End of the Night. It is not a definitive Doors classic. Not compared to the albums final track, The End. While its style is pretty general for the Doors, it is nowhere near as far reaching, over blown and mind bendingly good as The End. The lyrics represent a peak Morrison always strived for with his music. The band comes together more here than anywhere else on the record, despite the hap hazard sound. The entire group seems to spiral off in their own little tangents, all at the same time yet they seem to pull together like waves and re-group momentarily before drifting apart again. Jims voice is once again the glue holding everything together and the song loses all sense of time and structure. The music repeats and repeats but never gets stale. Jims vocals become more and more prominent at the song moves along culminating in his screams referencing the Oedipus complex.
If you give the Doors time, it’s very hard to hate them. If you like Rock n roll, folk, pop or blues, the Doors have something for you and it’s good. Jim may be long gone, or just hiding somewhere but his music and the band’s music is still very much alive and ready for any curious new generations that are willing to open their mind and experience what music drove a generation to throw up their arms and say ‘No’ when it counted.