Album Review and Q&A: Good Morning Midnight — ‘Songs of Violence’

Good Morning Midnight’s latest album is expansive. Songs of Violence is an aural road trip down county highways in an unfamiliar wood. It is a definitive Midwestern rock album.

Singer-songwriter Charlie Cacciatore explained the sound over a pilsner at George’s Buffet on a recent summer afternoon:

“When I started writing this album in 2017, I was playing with a band where we each lived an hour away from each other. That’s a very American thing, a very Midwestern thing. We spend a lot of time in cars. To us, Chicago’s a day trip. There’s a spread-outness that hopefully comes through in the album.”

Yes. Yes, it does.

The ringing lyrics of “Guernsey Street River” remind me of Ojibwa creation stories and early summer on the river and flying down the highway out of my hometown — the same highway my parents used to drive for an hour to take us to a Friday night double-feature at the drive-in movie theater two counties over.

The swaying major-minor deluge of “Big Flood” is freezing rain in downtown Minneapolis, the District in Rock Island during a boil order and endless, endless cornfields.

The foreboding strings of “Neon Bees” conjure the house my grandparents ordered out of a Sears catalog in 1938, currently decomposing in a teeny town in Northwest Iowa. Incidentally, the strings also sound a bit like early-2000s Radiohead; this leads into early grunge-inspired guitar under more of Cacciatore’s spiraling vocals.

Bits and pieces of the singer’s influences can be heard throughout the album. The 23-year-old musician grew up listening to ’90s radio, and I heard a little Pavement, some Beck (his Sea Change period) and Elliott Smith, to name a few.

“I used to hate it when people compared me to Elliott Smith,” Cacciatore said (at which point I remembered the previous Good Morning Midnight project, Both Neither and Both, and a write-up I’d done in which I referred to Smith in the opening paragraph).

How about Tom Petty if he’d started 20 years later?

“I’ll take that,” he replied, adding: “Actually, I leaned into it this time.”

In this case, it contributes to the album’s full, finished sound. All artists fear becoming just a derivation of their own favorites. This hyper-awareness, however, leads to self-censorship. By eliminating that fear, Cacciatore is now able to explore the full breadth of his creativity to give us weird little gems like the piano that opens “Alone,” which seems made for a Kubrickean establishing shot of a deserted highway through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with a 100-foot wall of pines on either side of the road and no cell service.

Songs of Violence, which wraps with four (4!) bonus tracks, is out now on Spotify and Apple Music and on Good Morning Midnight’s SoundCloud and Bandcamp.

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Q&A with Charlie Cacciatore of Good Morning Midnight

This seems like an obvious question: Is this a COVID album?

It is not. I mean, it can be a COVID album if that’s what it means to somebody, but I actually started writing it in 2017 before I even started recording the previous album (Both Neither Both). We were almost done recording Songs of Violence when the lockdowns started. The next step would have been touring, but … since that wasn’t happening, I didn’t feel the rush of a deadline anymore. And there was all this time available in the studio.

Because bands weren’t traveling?

Exactly. So I used the extra time in the studio, and I learned a lesson about taking as long as you want to make something exactly the way you want it. With previous albums, I thought about the release before I completed recording. This was the first time I understood that I could have that level of intention. That I was even capable of it.

What do you mean by “intention”?

Every sound was deliberate, and every sound mattered. I should clarify: Intentionality has always been important in Good Morning Midnight, but Songs even more so, because I had more experience and more knowledge than previously. So there’s just more depth in every direction.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 298.